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Health & Medical

Prepare kids for healthy summer eating

Frozen fruit bars are one of the many healthy treats kids can enjoy during their summer vacation.
Frozen fruit bars are one of the many healthy treats kids can enjoy during their summer vacation.

Backpacks will soon be stored for the summer and school buses will be parked in the garage until August. Summer vacation brings more freedom for kids and often a less structured day. This can lead to unhealthy snacking and boredom eating for many children. If you have children who will be at home for the summer, plan now to ensure they are eating healthy and staying active all summer long.

Start talking with your children now about summer schedules. Each day should include time for outdoor activities, chores, imaginative play, reading, arts and crafts, personal hygiene care, and healthy meals and snacks. Media entertainment devices such as television, computer, Xbox, and iPhone should be limited to no more than 1 to 2 hours a day. Many kids are sitting while playing electronics more than being active which can lead to weight gain and sluggishness.

Emphasize the importance of eating regular meals and snacks during the day. Start the day with breakfast, just as during the school year, and then have a small snack or meal every 3 or 4 hours. 

Encourage your children to drink water all day long. Many kids do not drink enough water which leads to dehydration, headaches and fatigue. Also, when dehydrated, we often think we are hungry when we are actually thirsty. This can lead to overeating.

Talk with your children about the difference between hunger and eating out of boredom. If you are not really hungry, then you should not eat. We overfeed our bodies when we eat out of boredom, which can lead to weight gain. 

Sit down with your children and discuss meal and snack ideas for the summer months. Meals should be easy to prepare and low in fat and sugar. Snacks should offer vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and should only be enough to take the edge off a child’s hunger.

Snacks that are high in sugar and lack nutrients should be limited. Take a look at the foods in your cupboard, pantry and refrigerator. Avoid buying foods that you don’t want your children eating. Whatever comes in the house will be eaten. Parents, please try to make healthy food accessible for your children. This means taking some time to cut up vegetables and fruit, making a low-fat dip, and cooking ahead for lunches and early dinners.

Healthy snacks for summer include mini whole-wheat bagels with peanut butter, frozen fruit, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, low-sugar cereal, sliced red and green peppers and other vegetables with hummus or low-fat dip, all kinds of fruit, sugar-free fudge bars, frozen fruit bars, string cheese and whole-grain crackers, flavored rice cakes, natural applesauce cups, sugar-free Jell-O and pudding, mini waffles with peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs, pretzels, baked tortilla chips with salsa, light popcorn and animal crackers.

Garden veggie roll-ups

8 whole-wheat tortillas

1 (8-ounce) package fat-free soft cream cheese

1 (1-ounce) package dry ranch dressing

2 carrots (peeled)

½ cup red pepper

½ cup green pepper

½ cup broccoli

½ cup green onion

Put veggies in a food processor and chop until very fine. Beat cream cheese. To cream cheese, add half to all of ranch dressing mix package. Add veggies to cream cheese and mix thoroughly. Spread veggie/cream cheese mixture on tortilla and slice into 1-inch bites. Repeat with remaining tortillas or save the veggie mixture in refrigerator and spread on a tortilla when ready for a snack. The veggie mixture can also be used as a dip for raw vegetables or whole-grain crackers.

Nutrition information per serving (makes 16 servings): 111 calories, 5.5 g fat, 12.8 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3.3 g protein.

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