During summer vacation or any time that the regular daily routine is disrupted, it is not uncommon for healthy eating habits to go out the window. I think the best way to keep the healthy habits up (or start them if you are looking to make a change for your family) is to have a game plan. Summer for many families is all about ballgames, fairs, days at the beach or pool, and late night ice cream stops. Eating healthy most of the time allows for a guilt-free “special occasion” treat once and awhile.
Plan meals ahead of time. You can pack a healthy lunch for picnics or pool days and for tail-gaiting at the ballpark instead of grabbing hotdogs and sodas while there. Have the kids look up easy healthy recipes online so they can get involved. Cooking together helps solve the summer “I’m bored” issue, teaches kids about nutrition, and saves money.
Take advantage of the local farmers’ markets and seasonal lower prices at the grocery store to pick up fresh produce. Keep a cooler in the car with fresh fruits, veggies, string cheeses, nuts, other easy to carry foods so you are not tempted to stop for fast food when out running errands. Stock the house with healthy foods—keeping chips, candy, soda ,“packaged foods” out of the house as much as possible, so the kids have no choice but to grab something good for a snack during the day. Have your kids keep water bottles in the fridge so they are easy to get to. Also make sure your kids get enough sleep and never skip breakfast. Both being overtired and starting the day “empty” can lead to binge eating later in the day. With a little forethought, choosing healthier options for your family can be easy, money-saving, and even fun—and THAT is what summer is all about!
By Ann Jones, MD, pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics, Appleton.