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Challenge: Summer Fun

Creativity is Key for a Healthy, Happy Summer

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Although my kids have absolutely no idea who Alice Cooper is, I’ve heard them singing ‘Schools out for Summer’ on more than one occasion. Summer is synonymous with happy, and in my world happy is synonymous with healthy, so with the days staying longer and the temps remaining steadily warm, here are some tips for having the healthiest summer ever!

Hit the Farmer’s Market!

Enjoy the bounty of the summer season by hitting your local Farmers Market where produce is picked at the peak of tastiness/ripeness, and nutritional value. As a mom and a dietitian I think it is a valuable lesson for kids to become familiar with where food comes from and meeting those who grow it. Sadly, many kids will tell you their food comes from the store or green beans come from a can!

Most people tend to eat the same foods repeatedly, but the wider the variety you get the broader the array of nutrients. At the Farmers Market you may find more diversity than you would in your average supermarket, take for example: red carrots, heirloom tomatoes, golden raspberries, purple cauliflower, or micro-greens. Incorporating seasonal foods, that you’ve perhaps not tried before, is a great way to get variety! Here’s how:

Grill your veggies AND your fruit! My summer garden is abundant with zucchini and my favorite way to use them is to simply cut in half, toss with a little olive oil, cumin, a dash of maple syrup, and salt and pepper to taste, then place on the grill until they start to brown, yum! Fruits can also be grilled and served in savory dishes or as a dessert.

Enjoy fresh salads! The possibilities and combinations for making salads is endless, let your kids help choose items to experiment with and let them take the lead. Try adding strawberries to a spinach salad, combine diced watermelon with greens and feta cheese, or toss diced grilled peaches with kale.

Make smoothies or frozen fruit pops! Try blending your favorite combo of fresh fruit, adding a handful of kale or spinach, perhaps even some yogurt for a protein boost ,to make a delicious smoothie. If you want a fun summer treat, pour into paper cups, insert a popsicle stick, freeze and enjoy!

If you happen to have space for a small summer garden, experiencing growing your own vegetables can be a wonderfully healthy and educational way for kids to enjoy the summer bounty!

You gotta run them!

Keeping your family active is one of the greatest contributors to health all year round, but because kids tend to gain weight in the summertime it’s especially important during this season. Years ago I recall talking to a dad at the park whose parenting comment for the day was, “you gotta run them”, well he was right and not only in the sense of wearing them out, but also for building healthy short and long term health benefits and habits.

I’ve found that giving the summer schedule some structure, is an excellent way to keep my kids active. If day camps are not an option, be creative and come up with your own activities. Some of my family’s favorite summertime ways to keep moving are to hit the beach, take the dogs on after dinner family walks, find a new hiking trail, go for a bike ride, or hit the skate park or pool. If your kids tend to have a technological obsession, try limiting screen time and work with them on striving to incorporate some sort of physical and outdoor activity into every day, chances are you’ll both notice the impact on your health and hopefully on your family relationship.

Make Healthy Food Choices Easily Accessible

Plan ahead by stocking up on an assortment of nutritionally dense choices, this will contribute to having a healthy summer when at home or when traveling. Here are some ideas for both:

When on the road:

Pack healthy snacks such as apples, oranges, grapes, dried fruits, whole grain crackers, trail mix, and jerky.

Keep perishables safe by using a small cooler bag for cheese sticks, hard-boiled eggs, sandwiches with meat/cheese etc.

Fast food vs. slow food, normally I go straight past the drive through…. but many places now offer healthier choices such as salads, fruit and cheese plates, or grilled chicken sandwiches. There are other “slower food” options, try finding a deli for a fresh sandwich or a taqueria for a whole-bean burrito.

When at home:

Create a snack spot for items that are easy for kids to spot when they open the cupboard or fridge waiting for something delicious to magically appear. Try yogurt (without added sugar), cut fruits or veggies, a plate of sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs or tortilla roll-ups.

Involve your kids in the shopping or planning and make an agreement on items that are both kid and parent approved.

Make sure they're taking daily vitamins to get the nutrients they need. Even if you're following a healthy diet, choosing natural vitamin brands like Rainbow Light supplies the nutrients food alone can't always provide.

Stay Hydrated!

To keep your body’s cooling system operating efficiently in the summer heat, it’s important to stay hydrated. The best beverage is plain water, which should be consumed regularly throughout the day.

Summertime fruits and veggies can also help you stay hydrated, as many of them contain a high water content. Take watermelon for example, it is not coincidental that the word water appears in watermelon as it contains over 90%, plus it is loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Cantaloupe and strawberries are also over 90% water and for vegetables lettuce and zucchini top the water content list.

Bottom line:A healthy/happy summer can be enhanced by enjoying the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are available during this season and by keeping your family active. It’s also important to incorporate common seasonal sense like utilizing sun protection when outdoors, making sure to wash your hands regularly to prevent the spread of summer germs, staying hydrated and remembering that it’s okay to have summer indulgences on occasion. Finally, try to schedule a few days to recharge your battery and turn off your electronic devices, it can greatly contribute to replenishing your mind and body and having the healthiest summer ever!

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