A Healthy Summer For You & the Kids

July 22, 2014posted by Massage Heights

Massage Heights’ philosophy has evolved into much more than providing therapeutic services, it’s about being part of a larger wellness movement focused on helping people achieve balanced and healthy lifestyles. Enjoy this month's blog from our nutrition contributor, Shannon!

A Healthy Summer for You and the Kids

By: Shannon A. Garcia, Registered Dietitian, Owner of Lone Star Nutrition, LLC

Hello summer time! Here in Texas, we’re already creeping up on 100 degree days and I've found myself wondering, where has half of 2014 gone already?! As summer arrived, it became very clear that summertime means very different things for all of us. For a teacher, it means a long-needed and much-deserved break from their classroom, and hopefully more time for their own kiddos at home. For a local business owner, it may mean extended hours of a storefront to accommodate for tourist traffic and a little less time at home. Summer inevitably alters our time and habits to some degree. Whether you find yourself with more or less time on your hands, I’m challenging you to spend a little more time in your kitchen or backyard (outdoor grilling, anybody?) and make it a family affair!

Getting Started

Grab a pen and a piece of paper. Write down at least one positive nutrition habit you already have established in your home that you’re proud of. Write down at least one area pertaining to nutrition in your home that you feel needs improvement.

Example: Positive: I grocery shop on the weekend and do meal prep at the beginning of the week.

Needs improvement: Although I do meal prep, I’m exhausted at the end of the day and delivery or drive thru just seems easier. Plus, the kids/husband don’t always want what I prepped.

Now comes the real brain buster. What is realistic for you and your family to achieve this summer and how are you going to make the improvements you just identified? Think about that for a minute or two. Only you know what is realistic, but discussing it as a family will better solidify what is likely achievable. And the answer to how you’re going to succeed is through teamwork. Here’s the neat part - everyone’s team is different. Your team may be you as a mom and your only child. Your team may be two parents with a gaggle of children. Or you may be a single college student who can buddy up with a friend to take turns cooking at each other’s apartments this summer. But identify your team.

Assigning Responsibility

Using the above example, let’s explore how using teamwork in the kitchen can set us up for success. Instead of one person making a list, shopping, and prepping the food for the week, these tasks can be spread out among the team. By assigning tasks, each team member will have ownership and help keep the team accountable. For example, let’s take a family of four where mom usually takes the lead on family meals. Mom can get everyone involved by offering options for the week and letting each family member choose one meal. Mom can still take charge of the list and help streamline a grocery store trip, but the whole family can help with prep and take a little extra responsibility when their chosen meal is served.

Kids in the Kitchen

Parents should get kids active in the kitchen at a very young age. Even toddlers can rinse vegetables in a sink! Of course, parents should also make sure kids have a healthy respect of the common kitchen dangers - stove tops, knives, cleansers, etc. I often have parents tell me they’re afraid to let their kids help in the kitchen or they don’t know where to start. Consider these tips and tidbits on kiddos in the kitchen!

*Institute a “Must Wash Your Hands Rule” prior to any kitchen help*

  • Rinse fruits and vegetables in a sink and place in a colander to dry.
  • Kids are naturally good at tearing and shredding; after helping them wash a head of lettuce, let them dry it off and tear it to shreds for a nice dinner salad.
  • Older kids can use a salad spinner to dry lettuce.
  • Toddlers and young children can help make smoothies by choosing their own fruit, pouring yogurt into a blender with help from mom or dad.
  • Measure appropriate portions of healthy spreads (peanut butter, hummus) on a plate, but let your little one spread on their crackers or veggies.
  • Older children can chop fruits/veggies to keep in the fridge as healthy snacks.
  • Children of all ages can help pre-portion snacks for the week or road-trips.
  • Have a family pizza night with Naan bread or cauliflower crust base; let kids choose their toppings from an assortment of vegetable & lean meat toppings.
  • If you have a child just learning to type on a computer- give them the family grocery list to type out.

Summer Action Plan

nce you've figured out what is a realistic goal and plan to help your family spend more time developing positive nutrition habits, put it in writing. Consider it a goal, with a plan, in contract form. You may also want to consider having all family members sign it and post in the kitchen as a reminder of your family’s commitment to good nutrition and health. Hopefully, you've found inspiration and motivation from this post and are ready to design your own plan today! Here’s to making summer 2014 the healthiest one yet!

*If you wrote down a positive habit and one that needs improvement, but feel like you can’t apply it to the above example, don’t think this post doesn't apply to you. Instead, aim to identify a goal with a small but measurable change you still feel is realistic for you and your family (team). Check out these bonus tips below for extra ideas!

Bonus Tips

  • Start a Family Pinterest for nutrition recipes.
  • Consider challenging another family to make their own Summer Action Plan and have a backyard BBQ together.
  • Check in at the end of every week to see how each team member feels the plan is working; adjust as needed.
  • Meals should be eaten at the table, not the couch or in front of the tv (tv movie nights can be a fun treat, but not the norm).
  • Washing dishes, like planning meals, can be a family affair.
  • Make sure as parents or team leaders, you feel comfortable with nutrition basics like reading a food label and completing a healthy grocery shopping trip.