Healthy Summer Eating
Summertime is right around the corner, and we all know what that means! For children and young people, it’s “School’s Out” like Alice Cooper. For parents, it’s trying to keep kids productive and active while making sure there are plenty of kid approved, healthy food options around to be devoured.
BY URSULA BRANTLEY
Healthy eating habits are fundamental to the physical and mental development of children and adolescents. It sets them up for success as they mature into adults. Eating right doesn’t always have to be expensive or less than delicious. It’s our job as parents to introduce children to quality foods in a way that they’ll embrace. Parents can begin introducing tasty healthy snacks and meals to their families and in no time those habits of healthy eating will be second nature.
RIGHT FOODS, RIGHT PORTIONS
Nutritious eating is all about eating the right foods in the right portions. A growing child’s diet should be portioned based on their age group and activity level. The CDC recommends that people aged 2 and older follow a healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, a variety of protein foods, and oils while limiting calories from saturated and trans fats, sugars, and sodium. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, fill half of the plate with colorful vegetables and fruits (and choose them as snacks), and split the other half between whole grains and healthy proteins.”
Kids seem to always want to eat! During the summer, more free time means more munch time. Summer can be a great time to try making healthy versions of children’s favorite meals—a good start to helping children accept healthy eating. For example, for burgers, try using turkey meat on wheat buns instead of ground beef on white buns. Replacing pizza crust with cauliflower crust on pizza will make a world of difference. When they’re craving chicken nuggets, try cut up chicken bites with breadcrumbs cooked in an air fryer instead of fried in fatty grease.
A clever way to make sure that kids choose health over convenience is to combine the two. Preplanned meals and snacks are a game changer once you get the hang of it. Meal planning doesn’t have to be time consuming or overwhelming. For example, talk with kids about some delicious, quick meal options they might like and then let them assist in preparing them with you. For snacks, parents can cut up strawberries or portion out grapes in small containers. Buying easy to peel clementines or cutting up orange slices can motivate kids to eat those instead of chips. Parents can also try making cost efficient and healthy snacks of crackers, cheese, nuts, and fruit.
VISIT A FARMERS MARKET
Parents may also introduce their families to beneficial eating by making the shopping an adventure. Planning an outing to a farmers market can be a fun, educational escapade for the whole family. Both Shreveport and Bossier have a market! Take the opportunity to meet the growers of the produce and even ask them questions about the process from planting to purchase. A farmers market helps kids develop an appreciation for the foods they eat, while learning where the food came from. Parents and kids can purchase many go-to fruits and vegetables like apples, melons, tomatoes, carrots, and onions. They can also acquire fresh foods like squash, zucchini, eggplant, eggs, beans, and herbs to make family friendly meals and snacks or even revamp those food choices they love.
Though healthy eating may present some hurdles, the benefits are vast. All it takes is some structure, discipline, and the right tips to get and keep families on the healthy lifestyle bandwagon.