Now that school is out for most of us, it’s time for long days at the park, late nights, and pool parties. Time for bare feet running through the sprinklers, fresh peas out of the garden and all the wonderful things that summer brings.
Unfortunately that also means it’s ice cream, hot dog, and popsicle season.
Don’t know about you, but there seems to be an over-abundance of sweets and processed foods in my child’s life, lately. Maybe it’s just simply her getting older and having more “friends” and more activities to go to. I don’t know. But everywhere we go, there is always a cookie, or a piece of candy.
I try not to stress it, but I do feel the need to counteract some of that by giving her plenty of healthy options when we’re at home.
I’ve learned from my Mother (who raised six healthy kids!), from my years of being a nanny, and from raising my own, that there are some simple things I can do to navigate all that junk food and keep my child healthy during the summer.
Here are the top six ways I’ve found that work.
1. Take your kids to the Farmer’s Market. Make it fun by allowing them to pick out their “own” produce to take home. My five year old despises the grocery store, but enjoys going with me to the farmer’s market, probably for this reason. I often tell her she can pick out any fruit or veggie that she wants, and I am just as often surprised at what she decides to “buy.” (hello, bell peppers??)
2. Make a daily smoothie. But don’t call it a smoothie! Call it a “milkshake.” I don’t know why, but it just sounds cooler to my five-year-old. Make it healthy with lots of fruit, a little almond milk, and sweeten it with banana. This is our favorite smoothie-milkshake at the moment.
3. Let them cook with you. I’ve always believed that the best way to get a child excited about healthy food, is to let them cook/make it with you! I find this to be true for veggie pizza, smoothies, pretty much everything that I make. If I make the veggie pizza, my daughter will wrinkle up her nose at the spinach, but if I cut up a bunch of veggies and let her build her own, she will put spinach on it, and eat it like a champ! EVERY TIME.
4. Make it colorful! This might seem like a no-brainer, but kids eat with their eyes first, and they LOVE color! Along with letting my daughter help me cook, I often tell her that the goal is to get as many colors of the rainbow into her milkshake, or onto her pizza. Once again, I am usually surprised at the things she chooses!
5. Set out a tray of fruits and veggies to snack on, all day. This goes along with the color thing, and is one of the easiest ways to get kids to snack on healthy food. I like to fill a muffin tin with all different kinds and colors of fruits and veggies, plus a few healthy “dips” like homemade almond butter or hummus, and then set it where my child can reach it, and let her have at it all day. It’s amazing how many are gone by the end of the day!
6. Make your own popsicles! Out of all the things you could do for your child’s health, this is probably the easiest effort to biggest payoff thing that there is. I mean, what kid doesn’t love a popsicle? And yet this is probably one of the worst offenders in the health department. Um, can we say sugar AND food coloring?? Get yourself one of these cool little sets and make your own out of fresh fruit juice, leftover smoothies, (oops, I mean milkshakes!) avocado, you name it. Throw a little honey or maple syrup in for sweetener and you’ve got yourself some healthy popsicles!
Then, be prepared to bring popsicles to the next pool party, kids birthday, picnic at the park, and pretty much ALL of your child’s summertime affairs! Not only will you be the coolest Mom around, you will know you’ve done something truly good for them in the process.
I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me, and may we all have vibrant, healthy children this summer.
Here’s to barefeet, and loooong happy days!