5 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Eat Better This Summer

Thursday, July 19, 2007 - 4:34pm

By Stephanie Clarke, MS, RD, CDN and Willow Jarosh, MS, RD, CDN

Summer is underway, school is out, and it's an important time to make healthful eating a priority for your family. Make summer fun and nutritious with these 5 tips:

Make breakfast a must

Yes, breakfast is still one of the most important meals of the day! Studies show that eating breakfast provides important nutrients that children need for growth and development, helps them maintain a healthy weight as they get older, and helps them perform better in school according to a recent review of research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. So, just because they're not rushing off to school in the morning doesn't mean they don't need a wake up call!

Food for kids: plan a fruit-filled activity

Encourage kids to have fun eating and learning about healthful food. A family trip to a fruit farm, where children can pick their own fruits and veggies, or a local farmer's market, where kids are exposed to locally grown produce, teaches kids where their food comes from and encourages more adventurous food choices. Visit http://www.pickyourown.org/ to find a "pick your own farm" in your area.

For more tips on getting your kids to eat their fruit and vegetables see the following article from TheDietChannel: Making Fruits and Vegetables Fun To Eat.

Stock up on healthy snacks

Snacking has gotten a bad rap from typical "snack foods" like fried chips, cookies, and sugary drinks that offer little nutrition. But eating the right types of snacks is a great way for kids to get important nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C. Since kids are in and out doing summer activities, have plenty of healthful "grab-n-go" snacks on hand. Stock up on string cheese; low-fat yogurt; homemade fruit, nut, and cereal trail mix; whole grain granola bars; fresh fruit; frozen 100% fruit juice pops; 94% fat-free microwave popcorn; and sliced veggies and hummus.

For more healthy snack ideas see the following article from TheDietChannel: Snacking: Dietititian's Tips for "Smart" Snacking.

Think outside the kitchen

Grilling is a great way to cook up healthful, kid-approved dishes that don't include the usual hot dog and hamburger stand-bys (and keep your kitchen cool at the same time!)

Two courses of kabobs: What could be more fun for a child then spearing their food on a stick?

Grilled veggie and shrimp kabobs: Start with chunks of chopped vegetables like bell peppers, mushrooms, red onions, summer squash, zucchini, and anything else you want to spear. Offer children lightly oiled and herbed veggies and marinated shrimp to build their own skewer masterpieces.

Fruit kabobs: Cut firm bananas, cantaloupe, strawberries, and pineapple into 1 - 1 ½ inch chunks. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tbsp honey, and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Fill skewers with pieces of fruit and then brush lightly with mixture of honey and lemon juice. Grill until tender and lightly browned.

Summer Food Safety

1.   Don't let good food go bad

According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), foodborne illness increases during the summer thanks to warm, moist weather and more outdoor activities. Ensure a summer of health by following these three tips from the FSIS.

2.   Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often

Teach children to wash hands with warm, soapy water before handling food, after using the bathroom, or touching pets.

3.   Separate: Don't cross contaminate utensils

Wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that touched raw meat before reusing. Monitor children closely if they are handling raw meat.

4.   Cook meat and poultry properly

Meat and poultry should be cooked to the appropriate temperatures. (Grilling can cause food to brown on the outside although it is still uncooked inside.)

For more information and tips on summer food safety visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov. and the following article from TheDietChannel: Food Safety for Picnics and Outdoor Barbeques.

Reampersaud GC et al. Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105:743-760.

Sandra Affenito. Breakfast: A Missed Opportunity. Research editorial. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007: 565-569.

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Foodborne_Illness_Peaks_in_Summer/index.asp. Accessed 6/12/07.

Accessed 6/13/07.

Recipes created by C&J Nutrition PLLC, Stephanie Clarke and Willow Jarosh.