Summertime brings a more relaxed routine and adventures for lots of people. Embrace the season’s fun without sacrificing your and your family’s diet. With a plethora of fairs, amusement parks and other places with tempting—but often unhealthy—treats, try these spins to keep meals and snacks balanced with a nod to summer fun, too.
Turn cooking & food prep into a fun activity
Kids are never too young to spend time in the kitchen. They can practice their math and reading skills while making great memories.
When your kids get involved, you can teach them about the origins of different foods; what makes some foods more nutritious than others; show them different cooking techniques; introduce (or reinforce) fractions and allow them some ownership in what they’re eating.
Studies show that encouraging picky eaters to help prep meals also decreases their pickiness. Let your kids play with the food—really! If they’re using more senses to explore foods, they’re more likely to try different, unfamiliar flavors. Take them to the store to grab supplies and have them help make the meals. As a result, they will become personally invested in mealtimes.
Has a rainy day ruined your outside plans? Or, did you host a slumber party or play date with friends? Grab a bunch of ingredients and encourage your kids to create edible artwork. Check out Pinterest for design ideas for fruit bouquets and fruit kabob skewers. There’s plenty of tasty, finger-sized inspiration here.
Fun Food Ideas
Instead of pizza bagel bites, slice zucchini ½ inch thick, season and fry in hot oil for 1 to 2 minutes; top with pizza sauce and cheese and broil on high for a minute or until the cheese melts.
Take your pizza in a different direction: fruit pizza! Slice watermelon into pizza-shaped slices. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt, and then add sliced strawberries, bananas and blueberries on top. Sprinkle sliced almonds or chopped walnuts to add more crunch.
Dip makes everything taste better—and most kids love dip. Pour a little ranch (or whatever type of dip your family likes) in the bottom of a plastic cup. Julienne sweet peppers and add sliced celery, carrots, string beans, cucumbers, or other veggies of your choice for an easy portable snack your kids can take wherever they go.
Make chicken or tuna salad with low-fat mayonnaise, add crunch with diced celery and onion, sprinkle with your favorite seasonings, and serve it in an avocado bowl instead of on bread. The avocado adds fiber and potassium and a festive flare.
Create kid-kabobs by threading halved baby tomatoes, butter lettuce, crunchy quartered cucumbers and blueberries onto bamboo skewers. Drizzle a little dressing over everything and you’ve got a perfect salad on a stick.
Keep kitchens cooler by putting the grill to work—another flavorful Hawaiian shish kabob recipe blends chicken, pineapple, red onions and yellow peppers. Serve with cilantro coconut rice and your taste buds will think you’ve taken a tropical vacation to Hawaii!
Try Mexican pinwheels with chopped rotisserie chicken, cream cheese, salsa, cheddar cheese, green onion, garlic and taco seasoning. Mix everything together in a bowl and spread onto whole wheat tortillas. Roll the tortillas tightly, wrap in plastic and pop in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or more. Then cut the chilled rolls into 1-inch sections—a perfect veggie and protein-packed snack perfect for summer lunches or the park.
Food for balanced mental & physical health
By using food as a way to connect with those we love, we’re helping maintain our mental mojo. The way we eat, drink, love our friends and families and cope with stress and sadness all play a big role in the state our mental health. Breaking bread together gives us time to relax, share stories, friendship and fellowship.
Plus, studies show that families who eat together at least five times a week tend to have lower risk for weight problems, poor eating habits and substance abuse—and kids perform better academically.
Eat the rainbow
When faced with summer snackaholics, try these kid-friendly, healthy options that appeal to even the most discerning appetites. Aim for a rainbow of colour on plates for meals and snacks that includes locally grown fresh produce; it’s the perfect trick for eating more healthfully.