Healthy Eats for the Summer
The kids are home for summer, which means they’ll be eating fresh fruit and vegetables and home-cooked meals every day, right? Er…not exactly. If your kids are like most of their peers around the country, their days will be filled with opportunities to eat soda, chips, ice cream, hot dogs, and movie popcorn. (And if they go to San Diego County Fair, they may even be eating Fried Kool-Aid.) Now don’t get us wrong; treats like ice cream are part of what makes summer fun. But if you want your kids to stay on track nutritionally – and create good habits that will follow them into adulthood – you should hook them up with these healthy summer (and year-round) food strategies:
Get them cooking: Don’t kick them out of the kitchen – put them to work! Summer is a great time for kids to cook because there are so many fresh things they can put together. One of our four-year-old’s favorite jobs is to create these Berry Popper snacks (simply put a blueberry inside of each raspberry). Kids can also help with prep work: Have them tear lettuce for a salad, squeeze lemons for lemonade, or push the buttons on the blender for smoothies. We like to cut watermelon into large chunks, slice off the rind, and then let the kids chop it all into small pieces (watermelon is easily chopped even with plastic kiddie knives). Another favorite treat that kids can make is Frozen Grape Kebabs: Thread some grapes on a toothpick, and stick ’em in the freezer. Within an hour or two, you’ll have sweet icy treats.
Keep good stuff within reach: Make it easy for them to grab healthy foods whenever they get a hankering for a snack. We created a “kids drawer” in the fridge – the lowest drawer – that we keep stocked with fruit, veggie sticks, small portions of yogurt and string cheese, and other “anytime” foods.
Shop the rainbow: Take your kids grocery shopping with a “rainbow checklist.” In the fruit and vegetable aisle, have them choose foods from each of the colors (red strawberries, orange bell peppers, etc.) so that they can fill out all the colors of the rainbow. Worth noting: They’re more likely to try the foods they’ve picked out themselves.
Head to the farm: Southern California is blessed with a wealth of farmers’ markets (see a good round-up here). Find one near you and make it a part of your weekly routine with your kids. Even better, set aside a day for a trip to a local pick-your-own farm (Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark and Tanaka Farms in Irvine are two of our favorites).
Let a party be a party: Last but not least, when a real celebration rolls around, let your kids enjoy treats. If they’ve been eating well for most of the year, a single party won’t ruin them. Besides, you won’t be able to enjoy yourself if you spend the whole time counting how many M&M’s they’ve eaten. Let go, and feel good knowing that you’ve helped them establish healthy habits that will last a lifetime.