Summer is here and school is out. That means kids are home.
One of the biggest concerns for parents are healthy meals and snacks for the summer. What are some healthy meals that even the kids can make while they are home for the summer? What are some healthy snacks that the kids will like?
Dr. Keith Kantor, a leading nutritionist and author of the new children’s book, “The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice,” has looked into the situation and has this advice.
Q What are some healthy meals that even the kids can make while they are home for the summer?
A Kids tend to be sick of school lunches, so providing healthy options that are nothing like a school lunch during the summer is best. Have them make a healthy taco or burrito. Have pre-cooked seasoned meat in the fridge, cheese, fresh salsa, guacamole, beans, olives, and vegetables, like cucumbers, onion, peppers, etc. This is a protein packed lunch option that is not boring but still nutritious. They can also make their own pizzas, instead of a refined white flour crust they can use a wheat tortilla or gluten free wrap as the crust and load with fresh veggies, leftover protein like chicken, herbs like basil and high quality cheese.
8 corn or flour tortillas
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 ounces), cut into thin strips
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped green bell peppers
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 cup prepared hot salsa
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Sliced scallions, chopped fresh tomatoes and reduced-fat sour cream, for garnish
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wrap tortillas in foil and bake until heated through, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, season chicken with salt. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat until very hot. Add chicken and cook, stirring until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to skillet. Add onion and cook, stirring, until they start to brown around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Add green peppers, garlic, jalapeño and cumin. Cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes more.
Stir in salsa and reserved chicken. Cook, stirring, until chicken is heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Spoon into warmed tortillas and garnish with scallions, tomatoes and sour cream.
(Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cook Time: 20 minutes. Total Time: 25 minutes. Yield: 4 servings. Serving Size: 2 pieces. Calories per serving: 282. Fat per serving: 5g.)
Q What are some healthy snacks that the kids will like?
Smoothies or shakes are a fantastic kid friendly snack that fits perfect into a day of playing or swimming outside in the heat. Go for a low sugar liquid like unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk as the base, add a fruit of your choice (berries, mango, banana, etc.) and a protein source like unsweetened Greek yogurt. You can also add in vegetables like spinach that will be tasteless but still nutritious in a cold shake.
A Homemade nutrition bars or cookies are also a great thing to make and have around the house as a “grab and go” option. These alternatives will satisfy a sweet tooth while providing more fiber, healthy fats and less sugar.
Try these gluten free oatmeal bites as an alternative to traditional sweets for your children.
Gluten Free Oatmeal bites
1 cup gluten-free oats
1/2 cup of peanut, cashew or almond butter
2 - 3 Tablespoons honey
1/4 cup almonds
1/3 cup walnuts
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
In a small or medium size mixing bowl, combine the oatmeal and peanut butter. Once that is combined, add in the honey.
Chop the almonds and walnuts. Add them to the oatmeal mixture and combine, then add the chocolate chips.
Roll into balls and store in fridge or freezer. Enjoy!
(Prep Time: 10 minutes. Total Time: 10 minutes. Yield: 25 servings. Serving Size: 1 oatmeal bite. Calories per serving: 92. Fat per serving: 6g.)
Berry Spinach Smoothie
1 to 2 cups unsweetened almond and or coconut milk
1 cup frozen or fresh berries (we used an organic frozen berry medley on the show, blue berries, black berries and raspberries)
1 large handful of fresh or frozen spinach (we used fresh on the show)
1 Tablespoon ground flax seed
1/2 cup unsweet Greek yogurt
Combine all ingredients. Add ice, if desired. Blend on high and serve!
(Prep time: 5 min. Cook time: none Number of servings: 1. Serving size: 16 oz.)
Q Do you have any tips on encouraging kids to make good food choices?
A Keep them involved. Several different research studies show that children eat healthy if they are involved in the preparation. If your child helps you plan meals, snacks, and cook them, they will have more of an “investment” in the food and they tend to eat what they planned or worked so hard to cook. Let them pick a vegetable rather than forcing them to eat ones that are not on the top of their preferred list.
Q Do you have a position in the “hiding it” v. “be honest” aspects of feeding children things they say they don’t want, but that they do need to eat.
A I think it is perfectly fine to hide healthy foods into meals and snacks. Both children and adults can do this all of the time, adding pureed vegetables like carrots or cauliflower into sauces or casseroles can increase fiber and nutrient content of a meal without having to force children (or adults) to eat bland vegetables that they may not like by themselves. Adding fresh vegetables like spinach to smoothies is also a great way to sneak them in. Forcing kids to eat foods that they do not enjoy could backfire and result in junk food binges or a negative connotation of vegetables later in life.
Q Do you have any personal anecdotes regarding how you determined these recipes for kids?
A My kids are grown, but our head Registered Dietitian, Dana Yarn has three small children and three older teens. She has tried several different recipes on her children, she found these options to be the most requested and successful with her own.
She believes that everyone’s favorite food can be transformed into a healthier version or a low allergy version. Food allergies have increased amongst children so using dairy free, gluten free, and peanut alternatives are necessary for some families.
— The Green Box is a wellness nutrition provider. Learn more at www.greenboxfoods.com