After years of struggle, the American Medical Association, the nation’s largest physician organization, decided to recognize obesity as a disease on Tuesday. A third of children and teenagers are overweight or obese, which is a growing number today. Obesity can increase the risk of many other diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. With many activities planned for the summertime, healthy, nutritious meals are often put on the back burner. When schools are out for summer vacation, kids have more unstructured time which can lead to unhealthy food choices. Here are five healthy eating tips for kids during the summer:
Stock the fridge
Where BBQs and other gatherings with unavoidable sweet treats are common over the summer, it is important to have healthy snacks available. Fruits, vegetables, and foods with high protein are good to have around the house and in plain sight so that your kids know that they are there. For kids who attend a camp over the summer, it is important that they have a nutritional meal for lunch, especially since ice cream or other treats may be served to them during the day.
Eat this, not that
Since sweets surround us throughout the summer, substitution is important to keep in mind. It is suggested that the amount of processed foods available to kids is kept at a minimum, as they are high in fat and calories. Although a bag of Fritos in the cabinet is much more appealing (trust me, I know!), try unbuttered microwavable popcorn as a healthy alternative. When making a sandwich for your kids for their summer activities, substitute white bread for whole grain versions. And when baking a special snack for the family, no need to get rid of all the sweetness, just replace half the white flour in your recipe with whole-wheat flour. Substitution of foods is important so that kids get all of the nutrients that they need.
Make food fun
Although it may seem more difficult to get kids to eat healthy in the summer, fortunately, there are fun ways to get kids to eat healthy, killing two birds with one stone! To make food more fun for kids, you can put it on a toothpick, which the kids may enjoy doing themselves. Freezing fruit such as grapes, strawberries and bananas may also be appealing to kids on a hot summer day. Adding some color to kids’ food is another fun way to enjoy healthy eating. Try adding some red, orange, yellow and green vegetables to their plates!
Get some fresh air
Another fun summer idea could be to start a garden with your kids where they are taught how to plant and harvest their own food. Not only are kids getting some fresh air, but also taking care of a garden could give kids a sense of pride and make them more enthusiastic and cooperative at mealtime. Picnics are also a great way to get kids outside involved in healthy eating and would allow for some quality family time.
Make it a trip
Farmer’s markets are a great place to bring kids where they are surrounded by fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods. A lot of farmers markets also have musicians and other forms of entertainment for kids to enjoy. Going to a pick-your-own farm is another great activity to do with kids in the summer where kids get to pick their own fresh fruits and eat them too! Pickyourown.org is a great resource to find a pick-your-own farm around you! Studies have shown that kids are more likely to be invested in a meal if they are able to help with its preparation. Therefore, bringing kids to farmers markets or letting them pick their own fruit can make them far more excited to eat it later.
So there you have it, a few simple tips to help your kids have a happy and healthy summer!