AREA -- The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is asking Missourians to choose healthy eating habits this summer.
Now that school is out, many children and teens are eating more meals and snacks at home. Parents have the opportunity to encourage and support their families in choosing healthy foods throughout their summer break, according to Pat Kramer, a registered dietitian at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
"Summer vacation should not become a vacation from healthy eating. Kids need to eat nutritious food in the summer just as much as they do during the school year," Kramer said. "Parents can help by making sure there are plenty of fruits and vegetables available at home. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is a critical cornerstone of nutritious eating habits and is associated with maintaining a healthy weight and overall good health."
She said while it is important to eat fruits and vegetables every day, including them on a menu for special occasions is one way to encourage family members to make healthy food choices during holiday celebrations and other summer activities. Here are some ideas for including plenty of fruits and vegetables in meals and snacks. Remember, more matters, so try out more than one of these ideas for healthy summertime eating.
* Hosting a backyard barbecue? Skip the chips and dish up crunchy carrot sticks, bell pepper strips and broccoli with low fat dip. Since most kids like foods they can pick up and eat with their hands, cook corn on the cob for a quick side dish. Try grilling vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini and bell peppers. Most vegetables can be grilled by cutting them into bite-size pieces and threading into skewers.
* Enjoy the outdoors with a veggie-filled picnic lunch. Pack along portable fruits and vegetables such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, grapes, plums and cherries.
* Unsweetened dried fruits, such as cranberries, raisins, apricots and figs, are easy to tote on a camping trip or hike in the woods. Make your own trail mix that offers a variety of dried fruits.
* Make frozen fruit pops at home to help beat the summer heat. Freeze 100 percent fruit juice in small paper cups. Add wooden sticks when the juice is slushy enough to hold the stick upright. When the juice is frozen solid, peel the paper off and serve. Add diced-up fruit to the juice before freezing for extra fiber and nutrients.
Kramer said keeping containers of fruits and vegetables washed and cut into bite-sized pieces in the refrigerator makes healthy eating easier for preteens and teenagers who are making their own meals and snacks.
She also suggests having children and teens help shop for the produce they like at the grocery store or local farmers market.
"When kids get to pick out their favorite fruits and vegetables, or choose one they have never tried before, they are more likely to eat them," Kramer said. "With a little planning, parents can provide healthy foods that their families will enjoy throughout the summer."