The lazy, dog-days of summer are nearly here. When school ends, many kids have a lot less routine. Mom and Dad still work and kids generally have a lot more freedom. Left to their own devices, many kids turn to junk food. Don’t let good nutrition take a backseat until fall.
“Try and maintain a routine with meals,” says registered and licensed dietician Tracy Beeman. Beeman is a corporate health consultant for Seton Medical Center Harker Heights. “You just don’t want the child to stay at home and be grazing all day because they’re bored. It’s really important to make sure you do have some structure to it,” Beeman added.
If you’re interested in making sure that your kids are eating healthy,
consider trying some of these tips to help:
1. Make it fun
Create activities and outings around healthy eating. Consider taking a trip to your local library and look up simple summer recipes. Have your kids help you make a grocery list and have them help with the shopping and meal preparations. You might also consider visiting your local farmer’s market and buying fresh meats and produce. It’s a great time to be together and it gives the kids a new perspective on where food comes from.
Beeman’s recipe suggestions? “Look for something that’s five ingredients or less. It’s not overwhelming, it’s not expensive, and you’re not going to lose their attention span.”
2. Leave healthy choices
When bored, kids tend to snack more. Instead of discouraging snaking, create opportunities for health decisions. Write down several options each day on a white board or piece of paper so that children can choose for themselves.
“Kids should definitely have their own access to snacks with parental consent. You want to encourage them to learn to listen to their bodies. If their body says it’s hungry – great! Eat something.” Beeman said.
Fresh fruits and vegetables always make good options, according to Beeman. Dips like hummus, guacamole or peanut butter can be great additions, too. If you have a little one that loves ranch dressing, consider mixing it with Greek yogurt for a healthier alternative.
Beeman also suggests looking for ways to add protein to the mix. Choices like hard boiled eggs, nuts, seeds and string cheese complement fruit both in taste and nutrition.
3. Do it together
Fun moments of structure in summer days can be a big help to kids. Consider designating specific snack times where you’ll sit down with your kids and eat for just a few minutes. Beeman suggests making the most of those moments by going outside, using fancy plates, and adding frozen fruit to the menu.
“You’re taking 10 minutes out of your day to build a healthy eating habit. That’s really key that they associate eating healthy with fun times,” she said.
4. Stay active
What we eat isn’t the only important part of a healthy summer routine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s physical activity guidelines gives more information. Children and teens should be getting one hour or more of physical activity each day. Beeman suggests adding in scheduled fun activities. Relay races, running through the water sprinkler or other outdoor games can all be fun exercises.
“It’s building happy memories associated with being active, which is going to give parents a lot less resistance with the children,” said Beeman.
5. Stay hydrated
With the heat and increased physical activity, it’s important to remember hydration while kids (& you!) get exercise each day.
Parents might reach for a Gatorade for hydration and electrolytes. According to Beeman, there are better choices.
“Gatorade is meant for sustained endurance. It’s meant to be used when you are physically being active for periods of 90 minutes or greater. Children are not usually in that unless they’re training for football,” she said.
Instead, a glass of water, an apple and a small bag of pretzels will do the trick. The pretzels provide some sodium and quick-digesting carbohydrates to give a boost of energy.
Another kid-friendly way to keep them hydrated is iced herbal teas. You might try fruity flavors like cranberry or apple cinnamon. For new flavor twists, try adding Brothers All Natural Fruit Crisps iced green tea. Have the kids help you experiment with new flavors, and you might just find a new family favorite.
This article was originally published by the Killeen Daily Herald and can be read in its entirety here.