Summertime – sometimes synonymous with camp, vacations, sleeping in, relaxing outside in the sun, spending time with friends and family, and having a break from school. During these months, sticking to a meal schedule can be difficult when a child’s day-to-day schedule may be changing. It may be a challenge to keep kids on a schedule and ensure they are fueling their bodies for all the summer activities they are interested in. Here are some tips and tricks that will keep your summer meals on schedule!
Every week or every other week sit down with the members of your household and brainstorm some meals for the coming weeks. This will get kids involved in meal choices and encourage trying new foods. Plus, organizing ahead of time will take some of the stress away from the person responsible for planning, shopping, and preparing food.
Meal planning options:
- Keep cut up fruits and veggies in the fridge
- Pre-portion and freeze chicken, fish, and meat
- Buy staples – like rice, beans, nuts, and seeds – in bulk
- Use last night’s leftovers for today’s lunch
- Turn roasted chicken and veggies into a chicken, veggie, and cheese quesadilla
- Chop up cooked chicken and make chicken salad sandwiches
- Use grilled steak over a seasonal fruit and veggie salad
- Transform baked fish into fish tacos
Another great way to ensure consistency, while avoiding the monotony that sometimes accompanies meal prepping, is to visit a local farmers market weekly. Shopping for in-season produce can be a great way to try new fruits and veggies, have nutrient-dense and delicious options ready to go in the fridge, and spend time as a family exploring local farms and supporting small businesses. By having a plan in place, it may be easier to have meals ready to go to keep on a schedule.
Although the summer months are often spent running around with everyone on different schedules, making the time to eat at least one meal per day together as a family will set you up for success. While this will ensure consistency with the timing of at least one meal, there are numerous other benefits to sitting down for a meal together. Studies show a positive relationship between eating together as a family and appropriate weight management throughout adolescence as well as a greater variety of food intake for children that eat with their families.
Sleep in – but not too much.
A barrier that families may run into during the summer is a varying start time to the day. Getting extra sleep during the summer months is a favorite for many kids and teens. But this can also mean breakfast might be skipped. Breakfast, derived from “breaking the fast,” provides fuel for the body after many hours of sleeping. An international review from this year found that eating breakfast provides numerous benefits for children and teens including improving daily routine activity, brain function, and performance throughout the day. Maybe breakfast really is the most important meal of the day!
Make mealtimes fun
During the summer, sitting down for a meal is sometimes the last thing children want to do. By making mealtimes fun and involving kids and teens in the shopping, planning, and preparation, they will be more interested in eating. A paper published in 2018 concluded that when children are involved in meal preparation and planning, they tend to make more healthful food choices and try a wider variety of foods. It’s a win-win!