Now that the kiddos are fresh out of school, they’re spending more time at home or with friends, and probably eating everything in sight. 

It could be the summer camps or the longer days of sunshine. It could be a later bedtime, unlimited screen time, boredom, or maybe it is simply having a more relaxed schedule that confuses their bellies into thinking they need to eat 24/7.

As parents, we also have to make adjustments during the summer. The constant phone calls, chauffeuring kids all over town, and increasing grocery bills and figuring out how to make them last longer than a few days. This time of year presents a challenge of making sure our children get the healthy food they need for their growing bodies. Since this has been a struggle in summers past for me and probably others, I have a plan.

Plan your meals

Dealing with hungry kids and not having anything planned for dinner is not fun. Having healthy, easy-to-fix, budget-friendly meals planned in advance can help reduce this source of stress. While this may sound arduous, when you get the hang of it you’ll see the difference in how far your groceries will go and the amount of time you’ll save. 

Involve the kids

Take advantage of the extra time you have with your children over the summer and involve them in planning, shopping and cooking together. One way I plan is to get a Thursday night conversation started. When we all sit down together, I grab my notepad and ask for meal suggestions for the following week. Not only does this help you to plan for meals you know they’ll eat, it allows you to make healthy choices. If burgers and fries are requested, plan to use extra lean beef, whole grain buns, veggies and roasted potatoes as substitutions for the less healthy alternatives.

Shop smarter

How often do you go to the grocery store to buy one or two items and end up buying more than you planned? I’m guilty of this but it always boils down to the same reason, I didn’t plan ahead. After your weekly mealtime planning activity, get started on a grocery list. Look in your pantry and freezer so you don’t rebuy what you already have. Read the local sale ads, gather your coupons, and find out what fruits and vegetables are in season. If the kids request peach cobbler in December, you’ll want to know ahead of time that peaches aren’t in season, so canned or frozen will be your only options. Being prepared with a list will also help to resist impulse food purchases.

Family mealtime

Sitting down together is good not only for the conversation, but because the meals you plan and make at home will always be healthier than fast food or when you are in a rush. Eating allows you to deliberately make healthy choices, to include the vegetables, the fiber and the dairy you need, as well as to enjoy it at the proper pace. 

Be a good role model. Expose kids to healthy foods, or at least healthier versions of their favorites. It is so easy to tell our kids to make healthy choices, but it’s so much more effective to show them. If you eat healthy, your kids will eat healthy, too.

Take some time to review; I’d love to hear what works for you.

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