For many of us, the lazy, hazy days of summer offer a welcome break from normal routines. We trade in school days for beach days and rushing out the door for snuggling in bed. With less structure, though, eating habits can become chaotic and lead to nutrition problems.
Here are five ways to keep your family’s nutrition on track this summer.
When chosen wisely, snacks can help fuel your child’s active summer days. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports children who are very young or very active cannot always meet their energy requirements in three meals, and snacks can fill the gaps. Snacks may account for up to 25% of children’s daily calorie intake, so providing nutrient dense options is especially important during active summer days.
It’s easy to fill up on chips, crackers and other starchy snacks for grab-and-go needs during summer. However, these snacks offer empty calories and very little, if any, nutritive value. Your kids will be begging for more within the hour. Instead, seek protein-and-fiber rich foods, which will keep them satiated and healthy.
Sliced veggies paired with hummus or yogurt is always a winner for snacks at home. Seed butters and nut butters can travel well spread on sandwiches. For sweeter appetites, dried fruit is packed with natural fiber and is practical to take on the go, but make sure it contains no added sugars.
Summer tends to effect little appetites two ways—children either eat too much or not enough. Some children will graze all day, which leaves little room for healthy mealtimes. Alternately, rising temperatures make other children feel less hungry and they skip food all together. Later, their blood sugar may drop, which will leave them starving and grumpy.
Put a schedule in place for both snacks and meals to help avoid these issues. Keep a reliable eating schedule in place, even if everything else is relaxed, to help kids get the nutrients their bodies need.
Look For Hidden Sugar
Summertime is synonymous with ice cream, s’mores and snow cones. While these are obvious sugar sources, plenty of other summer staples that are loaded with hidden sugars. Make sure to read labels and understand what your kids are having so you don’t unknowingly double dip.
Watch out for lemonade and punch, which are loaded with sugar and sugar substitutes. Instead, try adding lemon to plain soda or have sparkling waters with flavor, but not sugar, for a special treat. Popular condiments such as barbeque sauce and ketchup are also packed with sugar. A small two-tablespoon serving of barbeque sauce can have 12 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to approximately three packets of sugar! Have sauces on the side or make your own to better regulate your family’s intake.
Try New Foods
Summer is a great time to experiment with new fruits and vegetables—there is so much in season! Take your kids on farmer’s market outings and let them pick new things to eat. Getting them engaged in the selection process will help motivate them to reach for “their picks” instead of less-healthy alternatives. Make a game out of coming up with new salad or veggie plate combinations or use “new to them” fresh fruits in homemade fruit popsicles to encourage them to try even more things.
The key to consistently healthy snacking for kids and adults is preparation. Summer’s relaxed routine and busy travel schedule challenges our motivation to get organized and plan ahead when it comes to food—but it’s still the key to nutritious eating.
Chop and portion out fresh fruits and veggies on the weekends for easy access during the week. When travel or hot weather spoilage make transporting fresh items with you impossible, look for truly healthy packaged snacks such as dried fruit without added sugars or veggie snacks that offer at least ½ cup veggie per serving. You can also purchase healthy snacks in bulk or consider a regular subscription order, like Amazon’s subscribe-and-save options, so you don’t have to continually plan and shop.
However you spend your summer, remember that eating together, like any summer activity, should be fun! Reach for foods both you and your family can feel good about eating and you can’t go wrong.
Like what you read? JOIN the Mommybites community to get the latest on FREE online classes, parenting advice, events, childcare listings, casting calls & raffles, and our Parents With Nannies Facebook group. SIGN UP NOW!