6 ways to eat healthier this summer
I don’t know about you, but I tend to look at summer vacation as a longer version of New Year’s Day: a perfect time to instill some resolutions but without the bowl games and weight loss commercials.
To that end, our family will be in the perennial pursuit of “healthier eating,” but with the bonus of starting in summer when the food is fresher and in season and the natural break in routine. Here are just some ideas to help us get started using our lessons from the school year we just closed the books on.
Definitions. The catchall phrase “healthy eating” means different things to different people, you need to define that succinctly for your family’s needs. Are there health issues like heart disease or diabetes to consider? Or are you more concerned with lowering fats and sugars? Are processed chemicals and food additives troubling or do you simply want to broaden your menu horizons? You should define this clearly and then research and plan from there.
Like math class, sometimes it’s easier to add rather than subtract. Instead of cutting out all sweets for example, why not start by adding to your child’s diet first? I’ve started placing a bowl of cut up raw vegetables on the table at dinner in addition to the other items on the menu. Everyone seems to snag a couple, and we end up with an additional serving of vegetables without taking something else away.
Field research. During the school year, I tend to grocery shop alone if I can manage it. It’s cheaper and much quicker if I can zip through my list without strange additions to my cart. However a family trip with the sole purpose of picking out appropriate snacks together isn’t such a bad idea. I’ve found that through school, field trips and friend’s houses that my kids are introduced to and actually like foods that I haven’t considered in the past.
Reading is fundamental. And on that grocery store trip, a refresher course in label-reading is helpful. If you don’t want high fructose corn syrup in your ketchup, show them where that’s listed. If you’re specific about what you’re looking for in your food choices, then your child will start becoming a partner rather than an obstacle. Start with cereal labels and graduate from there. Here’s a guide from kidshealth.org to help you get started.
Field Trip! Personally, I’m a big believer in food tasting like food. The easiest and best way for me to achieve that is to shop local and in season at the farmer’s market. Take your children one morning to see, smell and taste the sights. Things they thought they may not have liked might get a second chance when fresh and they can also see where the food that they sometimes turn their nose up comes from.
Home Ec. Maybe not an every night activity, but invite your child to cook a meal with you. You can pick out a new a recipe together before hand or teach them a family favorite. Kids can gain a better appreciation and a greater sense of adventure if they are part of the process. If dinners are too difficult, don’t discount baking some banana bread or even making sandwiches together.
Happy New Year and Merry Summer.
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