5 Nutrition Tips for you and your Family this Summer

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Summer vacation is here! Which means the kids are out of school and are diving into their summer routine. This of course is the most exciting time of the year for your kids but can be very stressful on the parents. Without a daily structure, it can be tough for you as parents to balance work, children AND a nutritious diet. Do not fear! CDHF is here with 5 nutrition tips for you and your family this summer.

1. Create Healthy Master Meal Lists with your Family

Pop quiz: What’s for dinner? The dreaded ever-so-often asked question.  If you have a set master meal list, you can answer this question stress free. CDHF’s registered dietician and gut health expert – Andrea Hardy gave a great talk on quick and easy nutrition tips for families at our event this year (watch it here!), and one of our favourite tips was keeping a “Master Meal List” of go-to meals your family loves. Essentially, this is a list of different things you know you can prep easily and quickly on a weeknight, that your family likes and that are in your recipe repertoire. This really takes the “think” out of meal planning – and also helps to involve your family in the planning (taking the stress off that one meal planner in the family!) It also gives you the opportunity to ensure that every meal is as nutritious as possible.

Spend 15 minutes each week planning meals as a family – from there it’s easy to build a grocery list. You can do it by cuisine – Mexican, Asian, Western, etc. or by protein – beef, chicken, vegetarian, etc. Be sure to challenge your children to ensure that each of these recipes has vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter whole grain for a balanced, nutritious meal! If you’d like more tips on meal planning, hop over to www.getmealprepped.com to get the ‘Meal Prep Starter Guide’.

2. Keep nutritious snacks on hand at all times!

Soccer practice, dance class and swimming lessons, oh my! It can be tough during the summer months to not be tempted by the convenience of a drive through. If you keep healthy snacks on hand, and they are offered at the right times, they can really play an important role in managing kids’ hunger and boosting nutrition.

We’ve all been there. You just picked up your child from camp and are on your way to soccer practice. The kids are hungry and becoming cranky. Ensuring that you have healthy, quick and easy snacks on hand can prevent this from happening, and tie your children over till they can have a proper sit down meal.

The best snacks are nutritious – low in sugar, fat, and salt. We love MadeGood snacks for this reason.

One of our favourite on the go snacks that children see as a “treat” are the soft baked mini cookies. They are made with real organic ingredients like oats, apples, bananas and  chocolate chips. What’s really cool – is that each portion has nutrients from one serving of vegetables including spinach, carrots, broccoli, beets, tomatoes and shiitake mushrooms. Veggies in cookies?! This is a brand CDHF is on board with! If your child or your child’s friend has allergies, you can feel at ease knowing these cookies are allergy-friendly – as they are made in a dedicated facility that is free from peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, egg, wheat and gluten, soy, sesame, fish, and shellfish.

3. Stock the house with healthy choices

As much as healthy grab-and-go snacks are important to have on hand, so is having your cupboards stacked with healthy drinks and food choices. If the cupboards are full of chips and pop, don’t be surprised if your children pick that over the fresh fruit that will go to waste. If there are only healthy options available – your child will make the right choice!

Aim to keep some “Canada’s Food Guide approved foods” at eye level in the cupboards in fridge for your kids. Prep these ready to go snacks beforehand so they are ready to grab:

  • fruit with yogurt dip
  • Veggies (broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, peppers) with hummus
  • whole grain crackers with cheese
  • apples and nut butter
  • trail mix
  • toast and nut butter

4. Make shopping for vegetables & fruit fun!

If you have taken a look at Canada’s Food Guide– you will see that your plate should be half full of vegetables and fruit at every meal, so having them at home and accessible for cooking is essential. Why not pack up the kids for a fun trip to the farmer’s market? Do a quick search online – you may be surprised that there are a lot in your area.

The benefits of shopping locally at a farmer’s market are endless. The booths are packed with brightly coloured fruits and vegetables including apples, berries, corn, cranberries, squash and so much more! The more colourful your selection of produce; the greater its health benefits! So buy from all colours of the rainbow!

Farmers’ markets serve up an exceptional teaching moment for children about where their food comes from and puts a face to the families who grow our food.

If shopping around for fruits and vegetables at the market isn’t your thing, why not start a growing project in your own backyard this summer? Next time you’re at the grocery store, have your child pick out seeds for all different types of veggies, and have fun watching them grow this summer. It’s a win win: you get fresh produce for meals, and your kids get the nutrients they need, all while participating in a fun project!

5. Eat Mindfully:

Another awesome tip from our registered dietician and gut health expert, Andrea Hardy– is to start to incorporate mindfulness into your families meal behaviours. Very rarely do we actually sit down and check in with our hunger and fullness, and it’s important that you do.

Andrea recommends referring to the hunger scale (see below for the simple 1-10 scale). During meal time, challenge yourself and your children to ask – where are you at on the hunger scale? Ideally, you and your child will start to tune in with what regular hunger feels like. Your child may not perceive hunger the same way that you might, so jotting down what a 1 feels like in your body and your child’s body is so important so they can respond to it appropriately.

You should be eating till your satisfied (7-8 on the scale). In order to feel satisfied it’s important to eat mindfully. With our busy lifestyles in the summer, eating while distracted or doing other things such as watching TV, can increase how much you and your children eat and drink.

When distracted, you eat larger portions and can lose track of how much you have already eaten.

This summer – and going forward – challenge your family to eat at the table at every meal. Taking time to eat at the table can help you focus more on your food with no distractions, make healthier food choices and prevent you from overeating!

With healthy snack options on hand, and a little planning, your family will be on track for a successful, healthy summer!