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How to keep your kids eating healthy over summer break

My small people have just a few days of school left before the lazy days of summer begin… before they are free from rigid schedules, 6 a.m. wake ups, and yes, the dreaded homework and tests. But seriously, who’s counting?

Me, if you want to know the truth. I’m admittedly tired of the alarm clock, the never-ending cycle of school lunches, fifth-grade math (I’ve clearly blocked some of these memories) and the constant need for clean uniforms. Sure, the kids are a little excited as well. A smidge.

It could be the camps or the longer days of sunshine. It could be a later bedtime, the warmth, the option to play with friends every day, the utter lack of structure. Or maybe it is simply that freedom from homework.

It will only be a week before I will be needing some level of organization in our home again… I just know it, but for the moment, I might be as excited as they are.

Except for one little thing… with the lack of schedule comes the challenge of making sure those small people of mine get the healthy food they need for their growing bodies. Since I know this has been a battle in summers past, I have a plan.

1. Plan your meals. I know, I know… I just yapped about the beauty of having a more relaxed schedule over the summer. And it is more relaxed, but in order to continue to instill healthy eating habits in your kids, you do have to make sure they continue to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. And not breakfast at 11 a.m., skip lunch and grab a snack in lieu of dinner because they were “just having too much fun outside to come in to eat.” Can you let it all slide on occasion? Of course, but as a general rule, stick to a meal schedule.

2. Involve the kids. Ask your kids to help you plan your meals, to shop for healthy food options and bring them in to the kitchen to cook. It is so easy to tell our kids to make healthy choices, but so much smarter to show them. Take advantage of the extra time you have together over the summer to plan and cook together.

kids cooking

3. Stay hydrated. Water, water everywhere. Sure, we think about water during the summer, but often we dream of the pool or the beach. Make sure you stay hydrated with plenty of water during the day and include drinks your kids enjoy with meals. In our house, a glass of milk comes with every breakfast, lunch and dinner.

4. Find it fresh. This is one of my favorite times of year to cook. Why? So many fresh options. You don’t need me to tell you that fresh, whole foods are better for us. Local farmers markets make so many fruits and vegetables available to us. Include fresh options in every meal if you can… from berries on morning cereal, to watermelon at lunch and asparagus or broccoli at dinner.

5. Make it a family affair. Sitting down together is good not only for the conversation you have as a family, but because the meals you plan and make at home will always be healthier than the ones you grab on the go or when you are in a rush. Eating deliberately allows you to make healthy choices, to include the vegetables, the fiber and the dairy you need, as well as to enjoy it at the proper pace.

How do you keep your family eating healthy during the warm summer months? I’d love to know.

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