I really look forward to a break from the structured schedule of school days, but I’ve learned over the years that it takes a couple of weeks to transition into summer. Shifting away from early wake-up times and busy afternoons is great, but adjusting to chaotic eating routines can be challenging too. Now that my boys are older and making many of their own meals, the kitchen can be an endless pile of dishes — that is an adjustment too! Training them to wash their dishes and put them in the dishwasher is an ongoing process.
Regardless of the ages of your kids, eating habits during the summer can become a “free-for-all”, which research shows is not good for kids’ weight or the nutritional quality of their food choices. So, my #1 recommendation to parents is: keep meal & snack times on a schedule.
Another great strategy is to keep plenty of fruits and vegetables within your child’s reach. When I surveyed Nutrition Experts for the 400 Moms book, I asked, “How do you get your kids to eat fruits and vegetables?” One of the most common answers was: “I make them easily accessible.”
What does that mean? Having washed, pre-cut fruits and vegetables on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator or a bowl of washed, fresh fruit or vegetables on the table or counter encourages kids to choose these options before they see the chips, crackers, cookies or other snack foods in the cupboard.
Here are a few other ideas to get your kids eating and enjoying fruits and vegetables:
#1: With fruits and vegetables so abundant during the summer, it’s a great time to show you how much you love them and to introduce new foods to your kids. For example, you can take your kids to the Farmers Market and make it a goal to find one new food to taste or bring home to prepare.
#2: Another great way to engage kids in trying fruits and vegetables during the summer is to visit a u-pick farm to harvest your own produce at peak season. This is a fun way to educate your kids about where their food comes from. Kids love the hands-on activity—picking cherries, berries, peaches or any of the fruits and vegetables grown in the region where you live.
#3: Planting a garden is always a big hit with kids. Involving your kids in each step of the process — preparing the soil, planting and watering the plants, picking the fruit or vegetable and helping prepare it – increases the odds kids will eat it. They enjoy the process and take pride in seeing the fruits of their labor, literally.
#4: Try some new recipes with fruits and vegetables. For example, smoothies made with nectarines, peaches, or pluots instead of the usual strawberries and bananas, can be a big hit. Or if you’re really adventurous, try a cold soup—tomato or gazpacho soup, melon soup or even carrot soup can make a refreshing side dish on a hot summer day.
Stay tuned for a cold soup recipe or two in the coming weeks!
Cheers to a happy, healthy, fun-filled summer!