by Sarah Muntel, RD
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You and your parents are both happy it’s the summer! School is out, homework is finished and life slows down. As you are home during the long, hot summer, it’s a great time to get interested in health and NUTRITION. It takes work from both your parents and you, but can be a fun experience.
First, you need to know what to eat and how to make a BALANCED MEAL. Meals should consist of a variety of all food groups.
Protein: PROTEIN provides your body what it needs to keep your muscles strong and healthy. Protein sources include lean beef, chicken, fish, cheese, cottage cheese, beans and eggs. Make sure you have a protein source at each meal.
Fruit and Vegetables: These foods fill you up with VITAMINS, MINERALS and FIBER. They are all low calorie food choices. These can be served cooked, fresh or frozen. Fruit is a great alternative when you are craving something sweet.
Grains: Aim for WHOLE GRAINS. These foods, such as whole grain rice, pasta and bread, fill you up and provide your body with the nutrition it needs, as well as fiber.
Dairy: Milk and yogurt will provide you with protein as well as the CALCIUM you need for strong bones. Aim for 2-3 servings per day.
Sugar and Fats: Have these foods only sporadically. Limit sweets by using fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth and low-fat options such as low-fat salad dressing and dips.
Sometimes during the summer, we struggle with ideas for food choices. Check the list below to find some quick ideas that can work well for your picnic, pool lunch or breakfast.
This summer, get rid of the Pop-tarts®, sweetened cereals and donuts. They provide your body with so much sugar that you will feel yourself getting sluggish a few hours after eating. Instead, try these:
- Whole grain oatmeal with blueberries and a glass of milk
- Whole grain waffle with low-fat cream cheese topped with banana
- Scrambled eggs, cheese & strawberries
- Tortilla wrap with EGGS, turkey sausage and veggies, with a glass of juice
Avoid the fast food this summer. Pack your lunches ahead of time to give your body the nutrition it deserves.
- Turkey and cheese roll-up on a tortilla, fresh chopped fruit and yogurt
- Chicken salad on whole grain bread, veggies and dip and baked chips
- Ham roll-ups (ham, cheese, wrapped around a pickle), pasta salad and fresh fruit
These can be a big part of your summer. Eat three meals per day with a snack or two, if you need it. Avoid chips, cookies and candy for snacks. They will not fill you up and will leave you feeling hungry. Instead try these:
- Make a smoothie. Add 1 cup skim milk, ½ cup fresh fruit and a handful of ice and blend.
- Fruit and cheese kabob: Alternate FRUIT and CHEESE on a skewer. You can help your parents make these.
- Veggies and hummus: Have your parents chop up fresh veggies (carrots, peppers and cucumbers) and dip in hummus or low calorie dip.
- Apple and peanut butter: Have your parents slice APPLES and add some protein by smearing natural peanut butter on the slices.
- Whole grain crackers and cheese: Give your body the fiber it needs through crackers and add calcium by topping them with sliced cheese.
When it’s hot outside, we know you want to grab a juice box, sweetened Kool-Aid® or other sugary drinks. You could be getting too much sugar from your drinks without even knowing it. Even juice, which seems so healthy, can have a lot of calories. Fruit juice does have some vitamins and minerals, but is loaded with calories. Limit to less than one cup per day. Try to get your servings of fruit through fresh fruit and keep your drinks low calorie. Try some of these:
- Crystal Light
- Sugar-free Kool-Aid®
- Bottled WATER
- Any low calorie beverage
Stay Healthy Together
Now that you know what choices are out there, it’s time for you and your parents to help each other stay healthy! Here are some nutritious activities that you can do together to add to your SUMMER list. Choose a few and you’ll be well on your way to a summer of healthy eating:
- Help your parents in the kitchen. Take some time to help them find some easy recipes so everyone gets involved. Search online and pick the menu for your parents. You can do the mixing, spreading and stirring, while your parents do the cutting, chopping and heating. This can be a fun activity and a welcomed change from quick, processed fast food meals that sometimes creep their way into your diet.
- Shop together. Summer is filled with fresh fruits and VEGETABLES which taste great and are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Visit your local grocery store or farmer’s market with your parents. Make it your goal to try one new fruit or vegetable each time you go and pick it out yourself! If you aren’t so sure about a new fruit or veggie, try to pair it with a low fat dip.
- Grow a garden. Get a variety of seeds or small plants and make a GARDEN. You can help with planting, watering, picking and eating and then watch your vegetables grow all summer long. If you don’t have room for a garden, think about growing them in pots. It works just as well.
- Visit the library. Find COOKBOOKS and pick out a meal to make together. This is a fun way for you to learn how to cook as well as try new foods.
- Balance your nutrition with your activity. Move as much as you can. Get outside to SWIM, JUMP, RUN and PLAY, and enjoy the summer weather.
Have a great summer and focus on eating HEALTHY, staying fit and starting a lifetime of healthy nutritious food choices!
About the Author:
Sarah Muntel, RD, is a registered dietitian with IU Health Bariatric & Medical Weight Loss. She has worked in bariatrics for the past 12 years and enjoys helping people get to a healthy weight so they can improve their health, feel better about themselves and become more active.