Trying to get your kids to eat healthy during the school year when everyone is on a regular schedule is tough enough. In the summertime, it almost feels impossible. But with 1 in 5 kids today suffering from childhood obesity, it’s worth the effort it takes to get the good stuff on the table.
Even still, to lighten the load, we gathered a few easy tips to make the summer days healthy (and still a little fun).
Healthy Kid Tip #1: Never Skip Breakfast
It might start later now that there are no alarm clocks, but breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. Kids who eat breakfast tend to have a healthier weight overall and participate in more physical activities. Not a hard sell!
As for what to eat, avoid sugary cereals—those are empty calories. Instead, opt for things like eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, and/or fresh fruit. If the kiddos want something sweeter, dedicate one or two days a week to something like whole grain pancakes or waffles. (Check out these healthy pancake recipes if you're looking to try something new.)
Healthy Kid Tip #2: Pack Snacks
We know that meal prepping doesn’t exactly feel like a summer activity. But unhealthy snacking is a large contributing factor to obesity, so it’s important that your kid has a healthy option. Whether it's for sending them off to day camp or dropping them off at a friend’s house (or even for that long family road trip you’ve got planned), putting some time aside to make a few snacks for your kids to grab on their way out goes a long way.
Put a cooler in the car for perishables like Gogurt or carrots, and keep a "go" bag by the front door that you keep filled with non-perishable snack items:
- Bags of nuts
- Low-sugar cereals, like Cheerios
- Chickpeas (you can make 'em ahead of time or buy packaged—they're a great source of protein!)
- Dried fruit
Are the kids getting tired of the same-old, same-old? Check out this awesome list of 50+ healthy kid snack recipes to mix it up.
Healthy Kid Tip #3: Get Water Bottles and Keep Them Filled
A hydrated kid is a happy kid. If your child is thirsty, that means they’re already dehydrated. So get them (and the rest of your family!) a dedicated water bottle that they can refill themselves on hot days. This helps you save money (no more impulse buys from soda-filled vending machines), save the environment (no plastic waste), and keeps water coming. Plus, giving them their own water bottle gives them the responsibility of keeping it filled and in their sight...and there are tons of benefits for giving kids responsibility.
Healthy Kid Tip #4: Serve Regular Portions
Americans serve the largest portion sizes in the world, and that extends beyond restaurants and into our homes. You don’t need to be counting your kid’s calories (no need to instill unhealthy dieting practices early on), but your child doesn’t necessarily need and entire dinner plate’s worth of food. Instead, serve regular portions, and unless truly necessary, don't force your child to finish their meal.
If you want something a little more scientific, check out this chart from Healthy Children to get an idea of what portion sizes your child should be getting.
Healthy Kid Tip #5: Be A Good Role Model
Kids are master copycats. They take their cues from us. So if they see you overindulging, they’re going to see that as a healthy, okay option for them. If you want your kids to stay healthy and eat right, that starts with you. So, eat the things you’re asking them to eat and drink the things you’re asking them to drink. Pack yourself snacks for long car rides and eat your healthy snacks together.
This doesn’t mean that you need to skip out on the barbecues that are about to happen this summer to avoid eating badly. Giving your child a healthy relationship with food starts with teaching them about eating the “fun” stuff in moderation. So, for carnivals or cookouts for the Fourth of July, pack a healthy lunch or dinner...and let them have their dessert.
Healthy Kid Tip #6: Build In Playtime
During the school year, your child has recess and sports. During the summer, it’s up to you to keep them moving. So on top of eating healthy as a family, play as a family! Luckily, it’s the summer -- finding fun stuff to do isn’t that hard.
Even more good news? New Jersey has tons of awesome summer camps that are available to kids statewide. Check out a few cool options here. Even something as simple as a day sports camp could mean the difference between a healthy kid and a bored one.
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