The school year is wrapping up for many American children, so what about their eating habits and food sources over the summer months?
You had a system with breakfast choices, the lunches you packed for your kids, or some consistent choices served in their cafeteria. But now that routine may get shaken up a bit with summertime approaching, and the kids staying home.
Parents need to be attentive during the summer months to be sure kids are not only eating right, but getting away from the computer and television and exercising. Too often kids are allowed to snack throughout the day as parents are focused on their own workload, add to that too much TV time and fast food, and we’re left with kids heading back to the classroom next fall heavier than when the bell rang for summer.
Here are some suggestions to keep your kids eating right for the summer:
- Consider your own family or community garden to get your kids involved in their own nutrition from seed to table. The project need not be a major event, starting with a patio garden of tomato plants and herbs are a good beginning.
- Simple rules of the road for summer nutrition should be planned out with kids as well to allow a healthy summer for everyone and a fresh start to the school year. Be sure to keep kids on an eating and snacking schedule: Keep kids on an eating and snacking schedule: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks. Make the kitchen off-limits unless it’s time for a meal or a planned snack.
- Let your kids help plan healthful meals, then take them with you to the grocery store to buy the ingredients. Teach them to read food labels and compare items to find the most-healthful choices. Take a trip to a farmers market, where kids can sample fresh produce and meet the people who grew it.
- Build community service into your shopping trips. Local food banks across the country traditionally face summer shortages. A great summer family project could focus on building nutritional shopping lists with kids teaching them to read nutritional labels and donating a well-rounded selection of groceries to the local food bank each week or month.
- Participation in local summer food bank services could be a solution no matter what side of the table your family is on – those being served or those giving service. The USDA offers a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) for those in need and it not only needs wider participation, but more volunteers to get the job done.