By Angie Ketcham
These are the words that echo through our house the whole summer long. There's something about playing outdoors or working hard at those video games (wink, wink) that make a kid extra hungry. And, if it's anything like our house, the neighbors are always over to help make the munching more fun. So, how do you satisfy the hungry crowd and keep the munchies to a minimum? Here are some helpful ideas for the summer and the whole year long.
1. Make sure your child is getting enough protein.
Protein helps stave off the hunger, maintain blood sugar levels, and provide healthy building blocks for your growing kids. Protein can be found in many foods such as meats and fish, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, milk and cheese, eggs, and even some vegetables. My kids really like to eat beef jerky and sunflower seeds. We will prepare a variety of meats at the beginning of the week to have available for snacking or easy meals. With cooked chicken or beef, they can make burritos or tacos, quesidillas, or roll ups with cream cheese, lunch meats, and cheese. Put some vegetables in the mix and you've got a nutrious, yummy meal that any age child can put together. We also prepare small bags of "trail mix" that kids love to make as they can choose what goes inside their snack. Nuts and raisins, craisins, chocolate chips, pretzels, Goldfish crackers, m&m's, and marshmellows all make good choices to put in the mix.
Some more creative examples to sneak in the protein would include milkshakes made with Whey protein and Jell-o products with fruit added (but, of course, we prefer the sugar-free kind, because sugar is a catalyst for hyperactivity:)) Other suggestions are yougart, refrigerated or frozen in ice cube trays with popcycle sticks in them to make removal easier. Also, summer sausage and pepperoni slices make a quick snack, especially when added to some buttered bread with Pizza sauce and mozzerella cheese thrown on top. Yum! Remember, add protein not sugar.
2. Present veggies in creative ways and always at the front of the fridge.
Vegetables and fruit are always a hit at our house for any time of the day. Once again, we prepare everything at the first of the week by washing all veggies with 1 Tblspoon vinegar to 1 gallon water. Let them dry off and put them in small bags or small containers toward the front of the fridge. Carrots can be kept in water. Sweet peppers can be cut up to use for dipping in Ranch dressing or humus. Blueberries, strawberries, and bananas are great to throw in a milkshake or smoothie. Celery can be cut up and slathered with peanut butter or Ranch dressing. Oranges can be cut up in a bag to easily grab and go. If you're out and about, grab your prepared bags of protein and fruit and this will keep from having to get fast food last minute.
For younger children that may not be used to eating fruits and veggies, make a creative plate for them to enjoy. Be sure to offer often and don't give up if they don't take it the first few times. Add real whipped cream to dip it in or mix it with yougart for an even yummier treat. Little ones like the Ranch dressing also. They love to "dip" their food. If having trouble getting them to eat veggies, try Ranch with cut up cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. They won't be able to resist the yummy taste.
(Look for ideas on creative plates tomorrow on facebook on Woman to Woman ministries.)
3. Stay away from processed or sugary foods, especially sugar drinks.
When my kids were little, it was so convenient (and cheap, for that matter) to buy premade drinks like Capri-Suns, Sunny Delight, and Little Juice Jugs. Since then I have learned so much about what effects these high sugar drinks and foods have on their health and behavior. Resist the urge to cave into these easy conveniences. Even the cereals that we serve our kids for "breakfast" (the most important meal of the day) can set them up for a day of uncontrolled behaviors and impulsive behaviors that we could just do without as parents (you know what I'm talking about). So much research has been done on the effects of processed foods and sugars that it is no secret we are harming our children's bodies when we allow them to eat this stuff daily. As a parent, it is our responsibility to read nutrition labels and learn all we can about what we allow our children to put in their bodies. There is no one else that is going to do it for them. We must become diligent about their health. Wouldn't you agree?
As your child begins to increase protein, decrease sugar, and eat more veggies with vitamins and nutrients, you will be amazed the the change in the temperature of behaviors in your home. Good luck and God bless!