As the school year draws to a close, it’s time to bring on Summer !! With the arrival of ball games, barbeques, seaside trips and summer camps….. this time of year is rife with our children’s favourite foods. Yet so many summer foods — from BBQ burgers to ice cream and hot dogs — are dietary disasters.
So can children eat healthy, yet still enjoy their favourite summer foods?
Yes, they can have hamburgers, hot dogs, ice creamy treats, and desserts — if you handle it right.
Healthy Food Rule #1:
Let them eat sweets, say dieticians. It’s really important to treat sweets like any other food, to have a little bit every day. That’s how kids develop a healthy relationship with sweet foods.
Healthy Food Rule #2:
Make sure they burn off the calories. At a fun fair if your kids want doughnuts or hot dogs, go for it! You don’t want them to feel deprived.
Pump up their activity that week or that day so they can burn it off. It’s also important to teach your kids to share sweet and fatty foods — so everyone gets a taste, but no one over eats.
Healthy Food Rule #3:
Be a good role model, expose your kids to healthy foods — or at least healthier versions of their favourites. If you eat them, your kids will eat them too.
Here are some healthy alternatives and tips for children’s favourite summer foods:
Top Summer Food: Hamburgers & Hot Dogs
This is a big favourite at our summer barbeques – but this duo has always been trouble — full of fat, sodium, and cholesterol. The good news is, you can improve nutrition by making a few wise choices.
If you grill burgers at home, mix it up. Use one-half lean beef and one-half ground turkey. Add a little applesauce or egg white for extra juiciness.
Fun toppings — lemon or orange zest, black pepper, salsa, BBQ sauce, pineapple.
A slice of a summer tomato and some fresh-from-the-garden lettuce tops off the taste.
Frozen veggie burgers on whole-wheat buns are another good option. Try grilling them, and toast the bun, too.
Try light and reduced-fat hot dogs, including chicken and turkey dogs. They taste delicious hot off the grill.
Grill skinless chicken breasts and lots of veggies — onions, bell peppers, carrots. These taste great with a little olive oil brushed on.
Top Summer Food: Ice Cream
It’s hard to resist ice cream. But premium ice creams have about 15 grams or more fat per 1/2 cup serving.
Sweet news: Many well-known brands — are making super-creamy “light” ice creams that cut lots of fat and calories. Read the labels carefully.
Plain flavours like chocolate and vanilla have about 100 calories per half-cup, while other flavours are 120 to 130 calories – some even 250 calories per serving. Choose wisely.
Another option: If kids get an ice lolly, they’ll be avoiding lots of fat and sugar, and will have built-in portion control.
Make your own frozen fruit pops. Buy moulds and sticks at a supermarket, then pour in your favourite fruit juice (with fruit chunks, if you want), and freeze. It’s an easy yummy treat for a hot summer day.
For when the sun actually gets here!
Top Summer Food: Frozen Yogurt
Frozen yogurt sounds healthier than ice cream — or maybe not. You have to read food labels to see, as some have more sugar than low-fat ice cream.
With desserts, you don’t want to go for empty calories — and that’s where frozen yogurt fits in. Try fruit and yogurt parfait, topped with granola, that’s another easy dessert.
Or, spoon frozen yogurt between two low-fat cookies.
You could also make a smoothie, using fresh blueberries, grapes, and strawberries.
Top Summer Food: Waffles & Pancakes
This classic breakfast food is fun for kids. It’s made easier with frozen, whole grain, reduced-fat products. The toppings boost the nutrition: natural applesauce, blueberries, sliced banana and strawberries, and a little light syrup.
Another alternative: Scrambled eggs mixed with low-fat shredded cheddar, tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms (or whatever veggies your kids like).
Scrambled-eggs-in-a-cup: Take a slice of whole wheat bread, break it up into a cup, top with the cooked egg mixture. You’re good to go!
Top Summer Food: Marshmallows
What’s cool about marshmallows? Well, even kids with food allergies can eat them! (Gluten free, dairy free, nut free and allergen friendly).
Four large marshmallows have 90 calories — mostly sugar. To give them a nutrition boost, try skewering marshmallows with strawberries and other fruit. Kids will love them.
Top Summer Food: Popcorn
Whole grains help keep kids from gaining weight and popcorn qualifies as a whole grain. In fact, a recent study showed that people who eat popcorn regularly get about 22% more fibre in their diet, compared to people who don’t eat popcorn.
The only problem is all the fat that accompanies many brands of microwave popcorn. There are some low-fat versions out there, so read the labels carefully.
Air-popping popcorn is your healthiest option. Or make your own microwave popcorn: Place 3 tablespoons of kernels in a brown bag, roll it up, and pop in the microwave. Then spray with butter and add Parmesan cheese or salt. That’s about 80 calories.
Put limits on how much your child eats. Instead of putting it in a huge bowl, put a reasonable amount in a small bowl. Make that their serving.
Top Summer Food: Watermelon
There’s no doubt that watermelon is good for kids — with its high concentration of lycopene, an important disease-fighting anti-oxidant. Watermelon is 92% water and 8% sugar, and a favourite sweet treat for kids.
Make sure watermelon wedges make it to your table. But don’t stop there. A platter or bowl of other seasonal fruits — fresh blueberries, strawberries, cherries, peaches, plums — makes a yummy treat, too.
Try putting the fruit bowl in the freezer, and serving it frozen. Depending on age, if you can’t get them to pick up frozen fruit, putting it in a smoothie is great.
Top Summer Food: Anything Sweet
Chocolate cakes, carrot cakes, cakes of every flavour are popular picnic fare. Is that really such a bad thing?
If they eat just a slice, that’s fine. In the summer, kids should be active enough that they can eat a piece of cake if they want it — especially if the majority of their foods are nutrient rich. It’s all about balance and moderation.
Bake your own cupcakes, brownies, or dessert bars — instead of layer cakes — for portion control. Lighten up cake and brownie mixes by replacing oil with half oil and half applesauce (or another fruit puree).
To give kids a chocolate fix, use chocolate shavings for flavouring, frozen yogurt, seasonal fruit, or other healthier treats.
A naturally sweet treat: grilled bananas, low-fat ice cream, a drizzle of melted chocolate — and light whipped topping .
Top Summer Food: Thirst Quenchers
At the park or at the funfair — it’s hard to find a good replacement for fizzy drinks.
One fizzy drink once in a while is fine, but you should also give kids the option of choosing whether they want a can of fizzy drink or 3 cookies instead?
Let them make the choice. That empowers them to not waste calories.
If you do buy the fizzy drinks, share those huge lemonades — divide it in cups!! Carry fruit juice with you. Another option: Make a spritzer with exotic fruit juices plus sparkling water.
Have a great summer, filled with wonderful food treats and happy memories !