Healthy Summer Meal & Snack Plan for Kids: How to keep kids’ diets healthy when the sun heats up.

Help kids stay hydrated this summer with high water content foods like watermelon.

Summer means longer days and warmer temperatures. Children spend more time outdoors, less time in study, and are generally more active. Keeping good eating habits consistent during the summer months will ensure both short-term and long-term health benefits.

There is no particular nutrient or vitamin kids need more of during the summer. If a child has a healthy diet consisting of recommended fruits, vegetables, and protein, parents don’t need to make a lot of changes. Simply continue these habits to keep your little one fueled all summer long.

Staying hydrated in the heat is the most important thing to remember this summer.

Hydration is key!

When children are outside, active, and sweating, we need to replenish their bodies with water. Try to avoid sugar-sweetened drinks, which aren’t recommended at any time of the year. This would include sweet teas, lemonade, juice, or soda. Instead, try adding fruit to water for flavor and to keep things fun and interesting.

100% fruit juice is okay in moderation. Children shouldn’t consume more than one cup of fruit juice each day. A thirsty child can down several cups of juice at one setting, so be vigilant when serving juice.

Hydrate through food.

Fruits and veggies generally have a high water content especially watermelons, melons, and berries. Veggies like cucumber, celery and bell peppers also have a lot of water and are good for summer snacking.

What about sports drinks?

Sports drinks are an okay option for older children, especially those who are exercising an hour or more each day. While they contain replenishing electrolytes, they also contain a lot of added sugar. Young, moderately active children don’t need sports drinks to stay hydrated. Water should always be the priority regardless of age and activity level.

Don’t ditch the cold treats.

For many, summer vacation means ice cream, popsicles and other tasty, cold treats that help kids keep cool. You can keep your kids on track nutritionally, without completely avoiding these sweets altogether. Moderation is key and giving your children sweets from time to time will keep them from craving them all of the time!

Try finding healthy alternatives for more regular treats, like 100% fruit pops or Greek yogurt bars which taste like ice cream but provide more protein and less sugar.

Try homemade frozen treats.

Homemade cold treats allow you to control the ingredients and often cost less than store-bought alternatives. Below are some nutritious ideas:

  • Blend fruit and yogurt and pour into reusable popsicle molds.
  • Cut up fruits and dip them in chocolate or yogurt than freeze them for snacking.
  • Use frozen fruits like bananas, mangoes, or strawberries to create homemade ice cream.

You don’t want to deprive children of fun summer treats. If you can provide fruits as well as protein rich snacks, you’ll give them long-lasting energy rather than a short energy burst from sugar.

Two more things to consider for a healthy summer

Avoid grazing on processed snack foods like chips and pretzels which are high in refined carbohydrates and turn to sugar in the body. Instead look for foods that give them more sustainable energy throughout the day and keep them feeling full, so they don’t fall into a cycle of over-eating. Think fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and proteins.

Keep a consistent schedule. When kids are in school they don’t have open access to snacks. During summer vacation, try keeping kids eating schedule consistent. One healthy snack every couple of hours is okay, as long as you keep a structured schedule in place. Try to offer three main meals a day with a planned snack in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Basic meal planning

As you plan your summer meals keep the basics in mind—protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Cool summer meals like salads, cold soups, cold pasta salads and sandwiches or wraps are great options. Getting the kids involved in selecting and preparing their snacks and meals will allow you to teach them the importance of nutrition and get them excited about mealtime.