One of the joys of summer is all of the fresh produce in abundance. I love going to the farmers’ market. I love the taste of fresh cantaloupe, vine-ripe tomatoes or cucumbers picked from the garden.
Summer is a great time to teach your children the value of fruits and vegetables. Too often during the school year parents find themselves caught in a time crunch between school, work and extra-curricular activities. I think some fresh food advocates focus too much on lecturing stressed parents about fast food. As a mother of two sons, I know that an occasional run through a drive-through window is the only practical option for rushed parents.
We all know that fast food isn’t the best nutritionally, but instead of focusing on the downsides of some food choices, I’d like to offer the possibility that summer provides an opportunity to slow down and make good meal choices. Make a game out of getting your children to try new fruits or vegetables. As you visit the farmers’ market or the local produce aisle with your children, ask them to pick fruits or vegetables that look fun or interesting to eat. See how many colors you can get on one plate, or use the letters of the alphabet to guide your decisions – apples, beets, carrots, all the way to zucchini. Try preparing produce in new and inventive ways – many fruits and vegetables are wonderful raw, or you can steam them, grill them, boil them, bake them. Cut them into fun shapes. Come up with some healthy, inventive dips – such as applesauce or honey. Get your kids in the kitchen to help in the preparation. There are some wonderful summer programs that focus on teaching kids kitchen basics. The Association of Junior Leagues offers a great website, Kids in the Kitchen, with games and meal tips.
Summer is also a great time to go to summer festivals, many of which focus on food. Here in Oklahoma, the Porter Peach Festival runs July 19-21, and the Stratford Peach Festival is July 21. The Rush Springs Watermelon Festival is coming up Aug. 11.
A sad fact in our state is that some children go hungry, particularly in the summer when they don’t have the free or reduced-priced meals available at school. We’re thankful for the community partners who help us provide free nutrition at various sites throughout the state during the summer and for community partners, such as the Regional Food Bank that helps feed hungry families.
For a list of summer nutrition sites or other resources, go to the State Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Page.
Otherwise, get out there and enjoy the best that the summer has to offer, and enjoy watching your children grow into healthy adults.
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