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Healthy Summer Eating

Eating healthy during the summer can be a challenge. With kids out of school, family routines are easily interrupted. And while summer activities provide a lot of enjoyment, it is often easier to grab a packaged snack rather than to stick to healthy eating habits.

Hailey Meert, Cameron’s registered dietitian nutritionist, recommends some easy ways to maintain healthy eating habits this summer.

Keep It Fresh

“Avoid pre-packaged junk food,” Meert said. “Many fruits and vegetables are at their peak freshness during the summer months.”

Meert suggests stocking up on a variety of produce, either at the grocery store or the local farmers market, including:

  • Vegetables: basil, beets, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, mushrooms, onions, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet corn and summer squash
  • Fruits: apples, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, grapes, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries and watermelon

Cut up larger produce and keep in the refrigerator for snacks. To keep produce and other temperature-sensitive foods fresh outdoors, bring a cooler and freeze water bottles to use as ice packs (you can drink them as they thaw for added hydration). Nonperishable snacks such as trail mix or whole grain crackers are also good additions.

Keep It Healthy

The goal is to consume all necessary vitamins and minerals regularly through a varied diet. That’s even easier during the summer because of the abundance of fresh produce.

“Always try to eat from each food group and to have a variety of colors at a meal to make sure you are getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals,” Meert said.“The different colors in foods represent different nutrient profiles or different vitamins and minerals as long as the color is not artificially added.”

When planning a meal, Meert suggests eating a rainbow. Select foods of different colors to compose your meal. This is a fun way to introduce kids to new, healthy foods while also providing an opportunity to teach your child about nutritional value.

Keep It Easy

Meert suggests kid-friendly snacks that are fun to eat and can be made in minutes:

  • Snack kabobs: cheese and fruit speared on a thin pretzel rod
  • Ants on a log: peanut butter smeared on celery with raisins on top
  • Banana pops: a peeled frozen banana with any choice of healthy toppings (nut butter, yogurt, cereal, etc.) — add a popsicle stick for fun!

If you have a picky eater, Meert recommends allowing your child to explore the food by looking, touching and smelling. “Using senses other than taste helps kids feel more confident when trying new foods,” she said. “This slow approach to snack time makes it easier for you and your child to enjoy healthy meals together.”

Get the Kids Involved

With the kids home for summer vacation, now is the perfect time to get them involved in the kitchen. Have them help with simple tasks like washing or drying produce, handling ingredients, setting the table, measuring ingredients and stirring. However, only older children should be allowed to use a knife or cook with heat.

“If children help in the preparation of a meal, they will be more inclined to try it,” Meert said. “A new recipe may become a new family favorite!”

Cameron Memorial Community Hospital dietitian and nutrition services use food and nutrition to manage disease and promote health. Learn more here: https://www.cameronmch.com/services/dietitian-services/.

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