By Kebbie Stine, MNT
As we head into summer schedules get looser, days get longer, and kids get even more active. This is is a great time to evaluate our children’s (and our own) diets. The 2015 YMCA Family Health Snapshot Survey—conducted in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight—says kids' healthy habits decline during the warmer months, and nutrition is on the list of habits that fall by the wayside. Here are some ways to help you and your kids stay on track:
Eat your veggies! It is easy to make convenience foods your go to while shuttling kids to camps, sports practices and outings around town, but with a little effort you can pack healthy snacks for on the go ease. Think sliced carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, and broccoli “trees”. These crunchy snacks are easy to pack and have the added bonus of being hydrating on hot days. You can have dips like guacamole, hummus, or homemade yogurt dip handy for dunking.
Everyone loves fruit! Berries, sliced apples/pears, mandarin oranges, grapes, and melons are all full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins/minerals and are hydrating. Skip the juice, since the fiber is removed the natural sugars break down at a much faster rate spiking blood sugar and leading to an eventual crash. Try blending fruit in a high speed blender and pour into popsicle molds for a tasty treat!
Protein builds healthy kids! Kids more than anyone need real, clean sources of protein, and in a world of frozen chicken nuggets and Happy Meals we need to be vigilant about where our protein comes from. Chicken factories, feed-lots, and fish farms pump out mass quantities of protein options from animals that are fed unnatural diets, get no exercise and are chocked full of antibiotics, artificial hormones and many other toxins. Animals that are allowed to graze eat grasses and bugs have a higher nutrient content and much lower level of toxins. Look for:
-Grass fed beef
-Organic free range chicken
-Organic dairy products (from grass fed animals is even better)
-Wild caught fish
Include healthy fats! Fat is an essential part of a healthy diet, especially for kids. Fats are needed for healthy cells, healthy brain and nerve function, hormone production, and for shuttling fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. Unhealthy fats like hydrogenated oils and trans fats found in shelf stable prepackaged foods and fried foods damage healthy cells and can lead to a host of diseases. Choose healthy fats like:
-Coconut (oil, milk, shredded)
-Butter or ghee
-Whole fat organic dairy
-Grass fed meats
Drink lots of water! As the temperature outside soars, so does the need for water. Kids should be drinking water throughout the day to stay hydrated and keep their body’s happy. Let them pick out a water bottle they can call their own, and make sure to have it filled and handy during the day. Skip sweetened beverages like juice and soda as these are dehydrating. You can add fresh fruit, mint or cucumber to water to add some flavor; or try using blended fruit to make ice cubes!
Get kids involved! Invite your little ones into the kitchen to help chop, slice and choose foods. Studies show the more involved kids are with food preparation the more variety of foods they will try. Make it fun!
Another way to keep your kids healthy during the lazy days of summer is to keep them active, both physically and mentally. Once the routine of school falls to the wayside it can be easy to plummet into the trap of hours spent on screens like smartphones, tv, and video games. Try to schedule activities throughout the day and limit screen time to no more than two hours per day maximum (less if you can!). Some ideas are:
-Local museums and attractions
-Go for a hike or walk
-Go for a bike ride
-Have a picnic in the park
-Schedule play dates and alternate with other parents
-Enroll them in local camps
-Enroll them in summer organized sports (local recreation center generally have many options)
-Local libraries often have summer programs for kids
-Play board games
-Have art supplies handy
-Have DEAR time everyday (Drop Everything and Read!)