Don’t let an unhealthy diet ruin all the summer fun!
School’s out! Kids have worked hard in school all year and now it’s time for a break from waking up early and doing homework, and time to have fun. For some kid’s summer means time spent either at camp, rec centers, with friends, or by themselves. However they spend their summer, there is always some break of their regular routine. Even though a break from school is often times much needed, having a totally carefree summer isn’t always the best for kids. Maintaining a structured routine for children during the summer will help them stay active, stay healthy and stay energized during their summer fun.
It is important for all children to stay active and eat healthy when school is out. However, it is usually the routine of the school day that normally keeps kids on track. During the summer, kids tend to be more active. This increase in activity along with the rise in temperature can be dangerous if kids are not hydrating and fueling their bodies properly. If they are spending all day at camp, the pool or a friend’s house, kids could be forgetting to eat at proper times, or just snacking instead of eating full meals. Also, because they are having fun and being active, children are not taking breaks to drink water and stay hydrated.
Keeping your active child properly fueled during the summer is not that challenging especially if you set up some kind of routine to follow. Below are some of our tips and tricks to make sure your kids eating and drinking stays on track during the summer, whether you are with them during the day or not.
- Free School Lunches – Many children get their lunches through the school-offered program. This can make it hard for these kids to receive proper meals during the summer. However, there are over 1,000 sites in Philadelphia that serve free lunches and snacks to youths under the age of 18. You can find which site is closest to you through the Philly Food Finder website (http://www.phillyfoodfinder.org/) or you can text “FOOD” to 877877 and receive a message back to find the closest location. All you will need to enter is a zip code.
- Keep packing lunch – If you normally pack your child’s lunch during the school year, continue to pack it during the summer. This way you child can grab their lunch if they are going to be somewhere other than home for the meal. Having a prepacked lunch that your child can grab-and-go will stop them from eating unhealthy snacks or meals and instead fuel up with nutrient-dense foods.
- Stock the pantry and fridge with nutritious food – If you child is going to be home for most of the summer, or maybe they have a week off of camp, try and take the time to stock the pantry and fridge with healthy choices. Often times when kids are home they moment they feel hungry they will run right to the fridge to grab something. Having snacks such as pre-cut veggie sticks and yogurt or humus dips, fruit salad or – watermelon slices, protein bars, frozen smoothies, and trail mix readily available will help them make good choices when finding something to eat.
- Easy nutritious dinners high in essential nutrients – You want to make sure you are feeding your children good nutritious dinners at night, especially if they spent the whole day playing in the sun. Vegetable pastas (lentils/chickpea) with light vegetable sauces (tomato/pesto) are easy dinners that are high in protein, energy and fiber, and will help your children recover after their day of fun.
- Staying hydrated – Making sure kids get enough fluids during the summer is extremely important because they can be spending all day in the hot sun and become dehydrated quickly. An easy way to make sure your child is drinking enough water is to keep a water bottle filled for them either in their camp bag or in the fridge at home. You can also make fruit and herb infused water (watermelon, lemon, strawberry, mint) to serve with meals instead of sugary juices and sodas.
- Famers markets and pick your own – A great way to get your child to eat fruits and vegetables and even try new types is to take a trip to your local farmers market or farm. Having them either help pick out what produce to get at the market, or picking their own berries or tomatoes off the vine is a fun activity that encourages kid to want to try the items they picked out. You can even try to grow your own produce items or herbs in backyard planters during the summer.
- Healthy popsicles – Everyone knows summer is the time for ice cream, popsicles and other frozen desserts. Try making some healthier versions of classic summer treats for your kids to snack on like healthy popsicles, “nice cream”, and frozen yogurt smoothies and treats. Below are some of your favorite recipes.
Coconut Water Fruit Popsicles (mamainstincts.com)
- Organic fruits your kids love. Some examples:
- Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.
- Peach or apricot
- Coconut Water: Stick to fresh coconuts or get an organic coconut water like Harmless Harvest.
- Popsicle containers
- Cut the fruit in small pieces.
- Add the fruit to the containers (Try different combinations!)
- Pour the coconut water over the fruit to fill the containers and let it freeze for a few hours.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Nice Cream (nutritionalistreview.com)
- 3 medium bananas, frozen
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons milk
- Toppings: peanut butter to drizzle
- Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until very smooth. Top with peanut butter if desired.
Frozen Yogurt Fruit Bark (courtneyssweets.com)
- 1 large container of plain low-fat yogurt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 2 cups chopped fruit
- *sweetener can be used if you like your yogurt sweet
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix the plain yogurt with vanilla.
- Pour the yogurt onto the baking sheet and spread a little to even.
- Sprinkle on the chopped fruit and freeze for 3-4 hours until frozen solid.
- Slice up and enjoy!
Sarah Domino, Penn State Intern