The lazy days of summer can often result in a too-casual, graze-all-day approach to eating. When kids are on summer break and off from their normal schedules, it's important to keep a structured daily routine for both meals and snacks that keeps them feeling energized and at their best throughout the day.
Connie Evers, a registered dietitian, founder of NutritionForKids.com and author of "How to Teach Nutrition to Kids," has developed some simple tips for parents to help break bad on-the-go eating cycles as well as ideas for smart snacking options this summer.
1. Make half your grains whole. Whole grains make a valuable addition to meals and snacks throughout the day. In fact, the USDA recommends making half the grains you consume whole grains, which haven't been refined and therefore still contain dietary fiber, iron and B vitamins. That recommendation is important to note, as a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that whole grain consumption was low across the board and that children who consumed the most servings of whole grains had higher nutrient intake and better diets overall.
In recognition of the benefits that whole grains offer, Ore-Ida(R) Bagel Bites(R) brand recently incorporated whole grains into its popular line of mini-bagel pizza snacks. To help families make the most of snack time, the Bagel Bites brand also launched a pledge to "Snack Simply" this summer that asserts the importance of simple, wholesome ingredients and offers valuable snack-time tips.
2. Prepare for on-the-go snacking. Hungry kids and traffic jams don't mix! Make sure to keep fresh or dried fruit, water bottles, and trail mix stashed in your car for those times that you can't get home right away and need a snack to hold you over. It will also decrease the temptation of over-indulging once you get home.
3. Keep snacking simple. Parents don't need to spend more than 10 minutes preparing a good-for-you, wholesome snack that kids will love. If the snack takes more than 10 minutes to prepare, it's likely too complicated and chances are your kids won't like it! When choosing nutritious snacks for kids, those that have fewer, simple ingredients are always the better choices.
Quick, simple solutions include: colorful veggie kebabs that can be made by threading grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, pea pods, and other veggies onto wooden skewers; serve with hummus or low-fat Ranch dip. Or, make a pinwheel sandwich by spreading nut butter and berries on a slice of whole grain bread and roll up.
4. Drinks lots of water. Summertime often means outdoor activities on hot days, so it's important to stay hydrated throughout the day. Teach your child to quench thirst with water. Add lemon, lime or orange slices to chilled water to entice kids to drink more water. For a little more pizzazz, serve sparkling water flavored with two tablespoons of cranberry or orange juice.
5. Adopt the "Easy to See, Easy to Reach" approach. When a child walks into the kitchen, what catches his or her eye? Make sure to keep a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter. Stock the pantry, fridge and freezer with plenty of tempting wholesome choices strategically placed at eye-level for your child.