There are so many wonderful, healthy things about summer: long days at the beach, fresh vegetables, swimming until dusk, to name a few. But the fun doesn't end there. Summer also includes the sound of the ice cream truck rounding the corner, a vast selection of sometimes forbidden goodies for sale in the pool canteen and fun, family walks to the dairy bar. Not to mention trips to the movies when it rains, and the accompanying candy or buttered popcorn. (How can I deny my kids when I allow myself the treat?) But there are ways to set limits without drama.
How To Limit Junk Food in the Summer
- Start the day with a healthy breakfast. Though I get lazy in the summer,
I try to offer protein and fruit for breakfast at the very least. There
are worse meals to start the day than blueberries and boiled peanuts.
- Don't keep junk in your own kitchen. If your family is making healthy choices at home, you won't need to police the kids when they're out and about.
- Do keep plenty of healthy summer treats in the fridge, including loads of fresh fruit. Go ahead and cut up things like melon, so it's even easier to grab and go. Make your own popsicles with fresh fruit and yogurt. Bonus: Make it a fun project for a rainy day. Some pool snack bars will let you store your frozen treats in their freezer; it's worth asking.
- Talk with your children about how different foods affect them. When our oldest was three, I noticed he would lose his mind when he was hungry. We talked about what foods made him feel better. Instead of yelling aimlessly, he learned to cry, "Bananaaaaaaaaaaaa!" Too much sugar can end a perfectly lovely outing in one meltdown.
- Set a cash limit. One summer, our kids spent a lot of time at the pool with a sitter. We allowed each boy to charge $5 a week in the canteen. They could blow it in one day or five. We left it up to them. They learned quickly that a popsicle a day was better than two cookie ice cream sandwiches in one afternoon. Setting a weekly limit also put an end to constant begging.
- Make healthy food a treat. Headed to the pool? Instead of springing for nachos with fake cheese and a soda, stop by the grocery store on the way there and order sandwiches in the deli, letting the kids pick the ingredients. Grab a favorite fruit to round out the meal.
Teaching children how to make healthy choices when they're young will help them grow into healthy adults. I credit my mother's healthy ideals with turning me into the college kid who chose whole wheat bread and skim milk out of habit and took an extra apple from the cafeteria instead of a soda. But for now, healthy choices lead to a long, happy summer with less tantrums and more joy for all!
How do you encourage healthy eating when junk food is everywhere? How do you avoid becoming the food police?