By Thomas Meier
Both spring and summer invite relaxation, unplanned adventures, fun trips, weekends at the beach, picnics and backyard barbecues, state fairs, and local carnivals.
Unfortunately, sometimes those fun activities are coupled with unhealthy eating. It’s never the wrong time to start forming healthy eating habits. Here are some tips you and your family can follow to eat better when out and about this spring.
Choose water or brew-it-yourself teas over sugary fruit juices and sodas. Water’s the best for staying hydrated on hot spring or summer days; add zing with citrus fruits or lime. Water can help prevent you from overeating as well. If you love ice tea, make your own with less sugar. Green tea even helps speed up your metabolism.
It’s tempting to skip it when you’re running behind—avoid that temptation! A breakfast rich with protein, carbs, and healthy fats kickstarts the metabolism and provides an energy boost to greet the day. These colorful, healthy recipes by Bren Gonzales are delicious and can’t be missed.
Mix Up the Veggies
The spring and summer growing seasons produce a wealth of veggies that are less expensive when they’re grown and bought locally. Add new colors and flavors to your dishes—spinach, peas, asparagus, leeks, fennel and artichokes are bountiful in the spring, while squash, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini and eggplant are ready come summer. Check out these healthy ways to grill up vegetables that ramp up the flavor.
Find Flavorful Fruits
Juicy fruits keep you hydrated, and they can also satisfy your sweet tooth. Many are rich in fiber, minerals, antioxidants, vitamins, electrolytes, vitamin C, and potassium. Whether you transform watermelon into a lobster or create an orange and grape butterfly, tickle your kid’s fancy with fanciful edible fruit art.
Take the time to pre-plan your meals before shopping. This will be an especially helpful practice to have in place as the school year winds down and summer camps get into full swing. Plan your meals around what’s in season. Prep meals in reusable bags and freeze. Then just pop a bag in the crock pot in the morning and by dinner time, your meal will be complete — simply supplement with a side dish or two.
If you work from home, make a point to have quick and easy lunch options on hand to keep you energized throughout the day. Try mixed greens with grape tomatoes, shredded carrots and lean protein, slather hummus on some whole-grain bread and top with a tomato slice or cook a frittata early in the week so you can reheat and enjoy.
Cook Meals Together
Get your whole family involved with meal planning and preparation. Take your kids shopping and encourage them to pick a new vegetable, fruit, or meat. Peruse a few cookbooks or recipe websites together and ask them to choose a few recipes to try. Let them take the lead in the kitchen—help where necessary—and taste everything together. Compare the ingredients’ flavors, textures, colors, and scents before and after they’re cooked.
Studies show that kids who do help in the kitchen are more likely to choose healthier foods. But if you’re not sure where to start—or you view it a chore—it’ll be hard to get your kids excited. So, psych yourself up and embrace the process—put on a little music while you cook. Embrace meal planning. Improve your knife skills—and treat yourself to a few new kitchen gadgets. For more suggestions, check out these five easy ways to involve your kids.
Other Benefits to Eating Healthy
In addition to giving your kids a solid foundation with which to make healthy food choices throughout their lives, you’ll all benefit mentally and physically from eating healthier. Our food and drink choices—in addition to how we cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and sadness—influence our mental health.
Some foods, like leafy greens, nuts and avocados, can even stave off depression. Asparagus, berries, spinach, salmon, and other foods keep anxiety and stress at bay. So when you introduce these foods to your family’s regular mealtimes, you’re helping everyone to maintain a more even keel mentally. As little kids become accustomed to these foods, they’re more likely to continue eating them as they grow into adulthood.
Pair these healthy eating practices with other healthy lifestyle changes and you and your family will be on your way to living well and feeling great all year round!