Summer months mean warmer weather, days spent outdoors at the park or on the beach and delicious summer foods that can prevent obesity and improve overall health and well being in children and adults. Here are 8 easy ways and healthy summer eating tips to help you get started:
1. Make a plan
Start by making a plan that can help your entire family make little changes to eat healthier this summer:
- Whole fruits– Summer is the time when your local farmers markets are packed with berries, melons, apples, pears and other summer favorites. So, instead of buying cookies, cupcakes and brownies, take the children to the farmer’s markets to shop for these delicious fruits.
- Make half your grains whole grains– This means: if you have been buying breads or wraps or tortillas made with refined flour, try and choose their whole grain counterparts.
- Add different colored vegetables to your menu– Colored veggies in red, blue, green and yellow are full of antioxidants and an important part of summer healthy eating. Make summer salads, pastas and sandwiches using these colorful vegetables.
2. Move from whole milk to low-fat or 1% milk
Instead of sugary beverages, offer skim milk or water as beverages to kids. Make sure kids drink plenty of water especially when they are outdoors.
3. Vary your protein
As a part of your healthy summer eating tips, limit your processed meat intake and especially cut back on bolognas, sausages and hot dogs. Instead, add lean meat like chicken, fish, turkey etc to your recipes. Make sure you also include beans, tofu, peas, nuts and seeds in your summer eating meal plans.
4. Up your fiber intake
Fiber will keep the children full longer and also improve digestion. So add plenty of apples, carrots, and whole grains in your meals. Adults can also include fiber rich cereals to keep their cholesterol levels low and their heart healthier. You can limit intake of sugary juices and, in their place, add a cup of fruit to improve fiber in the diet.
5. Read labels when shopping
Learn to read labels on food packets and try to limit your intake of saturated fats and sugar. For example, just by replacing 2 oz of beef bologna with 2 oz of grilled chicken can help you reduce your intake of sodium and saturated fat. Also watch out for hidden sources of sugar like high fructose corn syrup, glucose, sucrose, dextrose, brown sugar, agave nectar etc.
6. Boost your summer meals with these tips
To give an extra boost to your summer healthy eating plan, use following tips:
- Instead of white bread sandwiches, serve whole grain wraps, tortillas, rolls and whole grain breads. Add colorful veggies and lean meats. Present the sandwiches in an appealing manner.
- Play with food’s textures: include healthy foods that are colorful, crunchy, smooth, crisp etc. This is one of the easy ways of making summer meals more appealing.
- Add veggies in everything: soups, rice bowls, with baked potatoes etc. Serve vegetables with healthy low fat dips, hummus etc as snacks.
- Set up a salad bar at your summer hangouts and barbecue parties.
- Add sodium free herbs and spices to flavor meals.
- Use high quality, organic and USDA approved ingredients to prepare meals.
- Instead of sugary desserts, make a healthy fruit cake: remove the rind and seeds of watermelon, pile it with other fruits like kiwis and strawberries and top with low fat Cool Whip or other homemade toppings.
- Always think about what is in season when preparing meals.
- Support farmers by shopping for local ingredients which are in season.
- Offer themed meals like Friday Fajitas, Tuesday Tacos and so on to get kids interested in meals.
7. Lead by example
Kids always learn from the adults around them. So talk to them about the best summer foods to eat and discuss ways you can be healthier. Also practice what you preach by being physically active and eating healthy yourself. Explain how good nutrition is needed to keep diseases at bay.
8. Use these sample summer menus
- Breakfast-strawberry protein smoothie, omelet with avocados, cereal, whole grain toast with glass of skim milk.
- Lunch- Fajitas with fresh salsa or Mediterranean style quinoa served with peaches, or strawberries and milk or plain yogurt or cool cucumber yogurt dip and carrots and celery stick.
- Dinner- Tilapia fish tacos on whole grain tortillas, salad of collard greens or stir fry brown rice with veggies etc.
We hope these ideas and easy ways to eat healthier this summer help you make your meals more nutritious.