The countdown is on! Summer is right around the corner. With the kids out of school, there might be a lot more activity in your kitchen! A little preparation can go a long way to help your kids eat healthy (most of the time) all summer long.
Start off on the right foot, since it's a lot easier to set some parameters from the beginning, than to try and implement them mid-summer. I find that it's a lot easier to give into the inevitable summer-time treats if I know my kids are getting minimally processed food most of the time.
Here are 5 ways to encourage healthy eating this summer:
- Be a good role model
It's going to be hard to make your kids eat broccoli if you refuse to eat it yourself. So, if your spouse won't eat a particular fruit or vegetable, make it for dinner on a night that he/she isn't eating with the family.
- Take the kids grocery shopping
There is so much to learn at the grocery store! Kids can go find a particular fruit or vegetable or they can compare ingredient labels on the back of 2 different cereals that they like. I usually ask for input from my kids when I make the grocery list, and then head to the store with a little room for error. I know walking in that they will ask for something that I consider to be a treat, and they know that they'll have to all agree on what it's going to be. That often means that something gets added to the cart at the beginning of the store, only to be taken out and replaced with something else a few aisles later that is "better".
- Encourage meal preparation
If the kids are at home during the day this summer, they'll likely have more time than usual for meals. Put the onus on them to make (or help make) their own breakfast or lunch, and clean up afterwords. Set some parameters around what 'needs' to be part of the meal, like fruits and vegetables, and also how much of a treat is acceptable in your home. Most people, kids included, think that clean-up is the worst part of being in the kitchen, so if they get used to it now, it will be less of a hassle (or detractor) as they get older. And, if the kids get used to making their own breakfast and lunch during the summer, it will be a lot easier to get them to continue once the school year starts back up in the fall.
- Make a list of 100 foods by the end of summer
This could be a fun way to get your kids to try new foods. Have them sit down and make a list of minimally processed or unprocessed foods that they have eaten (apples, bananas, cheddar cheese and NOT Cheetos or Sprite). Set a maximum number of ingredients to ensure the foods are minimally processed; 4 or 5 should be enough. Have the kids add to their lists all summer and see if they can get to 100. The Farmers Market is a great place to go if they need a little help! I just made my own list; see the photo below.
- Plan ahead when you'll be on the go
Whether you're headed on a road-trip or to the community swim club, it's usually easier to keep eating healthy if you bring your own. It's also much harder to plan for, so it requires planning ahead. Pack whole foods that don't require a lot of extra work and have their own natural packaging - like skinned fruits such as bananas, apples, pears, peaches, and so on. Dried fruits are great too. So are bags of mini carrots. The energy bites that I wrote about back in March are also easy to make and portable. If you like some crunch, there seem to be a growing number of granola bar options without a ton of sugar, and the crunchy ones seem to have fewer ingredients than the chewy ones.