Summer vacation tends to involve a lot of less-ideal food options (fried corn dogs, anyone?). Here's how to guide your children toward good choices--without detracting from summer's freedom and fun.
How do you help children make healthy food choices—even during summer vacation?
“Summer is a challenge because so many seasonal activities revolve around foods that are more delicious than nutritious, such as lemonade, ball park franks and ice cream,” says family physician Andrew Abraham, MD, organic advocate and a father of two. “But parents don't have to let their kids' summers be a vacation from healthy eating and living.” Here’s what he suggests:
1. Keep fruits available. Put a bowl of apples on the table. Keep bananas on the counter, and place ready-to-grab grapes on the top shelf in the refrigerator.
2. Make vegetables fun. Turn a cucumber into a caterpillar, cherry tomatoes into a summertime snowman, and broccoli and cauliflower into miniature forests.
3. Turn off the TV. Hula-hoops, baseball bats, kites—there are plenty of ways to entice your kids off the couch for a little exercise.
4. Drink water. When the weather is hot, especially for extended periods, children can get dehydrated. Let them pick out their own water bottle to carry with them.
5. Grow a family garden. Everything kids cultivate in their own garden provides a lifelong lesson in where food comes from, and that is step one in developing healthy lifelong eating habits. Easy-to-grow options: basil, zucchini, lettuce.
6. Visit a dairy farm. Learn how cows convert pasture grasses into milk for your table.
7. Take active family trips. Teach your kids how to enjoy exercise by trying hiking, swimming, or bicycling with them.
8. Experiment in the kitchen. Let kids learn how to prepare their own food. The more they know about their food, the better their eating habits.
9. Shop at farmers markets and local retail groceries. Help kids interact with the people who grow and sell their food, and develop shopping skills, while visiting one of America's farmers markets and natural foods retailers.
10. Get extra nutrition. If you’re on the go, take foods and drinks that provide added nutrition in a pinch. Dr. Abraham helped develop Orgain Healthy Kids, an organic nutritional shake with 8 grams protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, with no corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. We love the Chocolate flavor, but Vanilla and Strawberry are kid-approved too.