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Creating a Healthy Summer Meal and Snack Plan for Kids – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic

With longer days, hotter temperatures, and no school, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to fill their summer. Whatever they do, there is no reason to slip their diets during the warmer weather months.

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Making sure your children stay in tune with their eating habits during the summer will provide both short-term and long-term health benefits. When they are kept filled with the vitamins and nutrients they need, they will stay active and establish consistent healthy eating habits for them throughout the year.

Child-registered nutritionist Jennifer Hyland, RD, gives us insight into how to keep kids healthy in the summer, tips on developing good eating habits, and even leaves us with some great ideas for summer recipes.

Daylight saving time priorities

According to Hyland, there are no special nutrients or vitamins that children need in summer. “The challenge is usually that children aren’t getting the vitamins and nutrients they need anyway,” she says. “To be honest, we hope that the kids are active all year round so that their needs don’t change much in the summer.”

Instead, she says, the most important thing to keep in mind during the summer is that your children are adequately hydrated.

It’s all about water

“When kids are outside, active, and sweating, they need to stay hydrated,” says Hyland. And while it may be tempting to just let the kids get what they want out of the fridge, it’s important to be in control of what they drink.

“Sugar-sweetened drinks are not recommended at any time of the year,” she says. “This includes sweet teas, lemonade, juice or soda.” Instead, she suggests things like adding fruit to water for flavor or even bubbly flavored water to keep things fun and interesting.

She also says that 100% fruit juice is okay in moderation. But not more than one cup a day, ”she suggests. “Children, especially when they are thirsty, can drink several cups of juice at once, so you want to keep them from drinking too much sugar.

Hydration through food

Yes, we can also get essential water through food. By keeping these types of snacks, you can ensure that your children stay healthy and hydrated. “Fruits and vegetables generally have a high water content,” says Hyland. “Fruits like watermelon, melon, and berries are great for this. And vegetables like cucumber, celery, and peppers have plenty of water too. “

While you don’t just have to offer your kids those water-laden snacks, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve mixed them in to aid in that hydration.

What about sports drinks?

According to Hyland, sports drinks should be reserved for older children, especially those who exercise for an hour or more a day. “It’s just a lot of added sugar and it’s not necessary unless kids are very active,” she points out. “If they’re young and moderately active and playing with friends, they don’t need to. If they’re an older kid or teenager and play baseball or soccer all day, there is a place for sports drinks, but water should always be the priority.

You don’t have to go without cold treats

Summer is high time for ice cream, popsicles and other tasty cold treats to keep the kids cool. But just because you want to keep them healthy doesn’t mean you have to throw these items away entirely. And yes, there are plenty of alternatives that you can ride a bike in.

“We never want to say no, your kids can never eat ice cream, popsicles, or other cold treats. There’s absolutely a place for that, and when they give them these goodies from time to time, they can’t crave them that much, ”says Hyland.

That said, there are some great alternatives for more regular treats that won’t load your kids with as much sugar. Hyland suggests. “You can find 100% fruit pops at your grocery store or, if you like a bit creamier, Greek yogurt bars,” she says. “They taste like ice cream, but they’re made with Greek yogurt to give your kids more protein.”

Homemade frozen delicacies

Hyland adds that you can whip up homemade goodies too. Not only can this be more convenient and save you some money, but it also gives you more control over the ingredients.

Some of Hyland’s ideas are:

  • Mix up different combinations of fruit and yogurt and pour them into reusable popsicle molds.
  • Cut different fruits into pieces, dip them in chocolate or yogurt, and then freeze them.
  • Use frozen fruits like bananas, mangoes, or strawberries to make homemade ice cream.

“Here, too, we don’t want to withhold these funny things from children,” says Hyland. “It’s about giving them snacks from which they can get essential vitamins and nutrients. If you can use fruits and egg whites in a snack, you are giving them long lasting energy and not energy from sugar that doesn’t stay with them for as long. “

Two more steps to a healthy summer

There are two additional points that Hyland emphasizes in keeping children healthy all summer.

Avoid grazing on processed snacks

Many popular snacks, such as french fries and pretzels, are high in refined carbohydrates that turn into sugar in the body. And that’s not a great combo for kids at any time, especially during a busy time like summer. “These sugars are digested quickly and do not sustain a child’s energy and keep them from feeling full for long,” notes Hyland.

The goal is to give children food that will give them more sustainable energy throughout the day and make them feel full so they don’t get into a cycle of overeating. “Again, everything revolves around fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and proteins,” she adds. “We may think it’s just about giving them calories, but we really want to make sure that the calories we give them keep them full and not get burned as quickly.”

Keep the schedule consistent

Another important aspect of summer dining, according to Hyland, is balancing children’s meal plans with the school year. “When children are in school, they don’t have free access to snacks whenever they want,” she says. “And we want to keep the same pattern at home.”

It’s all about balance, she says. It’s okay for kids to have (healthy) snacks every few hours. It’s just important to keep this structure. “It’s a great way to keep her at her three main meals a day and then have scheduled snacks,” she says. “As a parent, you may not always be able to swing it. But as much as you can hold them to this fixed food structure, the better the behavior. “

Ideas for a menu in warm weather

Meal planning is a great way to provide the necessary structure and ensure healthy meals and snacks at any time of the year. But some ideas work especially well in summer.

Hyland suggests that when planning and preparing meals, you include all required food groups – protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables – in the meal. Changing options and even adding different foods to the plate can be fun for younger children and encourage them to become more engaged in healthy foods.

While salads are generally a tried and tested option, things should be done a little bit. “Pick a protein like chicken, then set all the options to create a salad bar for kids to build their own in,” suggests Hyland. “Try different varieties, like some healthy Mexican salads.”

Another option that might seem counter-intuitive at first glance is soups. “A lot of people don’t know that soups can be served cold,” says Hyland. “You can make yourself a large amount of summer soup – like gazpacho or vegetable soup – and freeze it. Then, if necessary, you can either heat them up for serving or defrost them a little to serve them cold. “

Cold pasta salads are another great summer product that can be kept in the refrigerator and spread out over several days. “Use whole grain or bean-based pasta, which can provide both fiber and protein,” she says. “You can throw things like a little cheese or turkey peppers and vegetables like peppers and zucchini on them.”

And if you run out of time – not unusual on a busy summer! – You can keep faster meals like sandwiches and wraps healthy by relying on whole grain breads and mixing in fruits, vegetables and proteins. A combo like spinach, chicken, and hummus in a pack with some strawberries on the side is not only delicious, she says, but also nutritious and filling. Remember to include the kids and always make it fun.

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