Blog · Aug 04, 2021
Summer season often gives us more time to step out of our routine to try new things, set new goals, and expand our daily habits. Summer is also a time of bounty with a greater variety of fresh fruits and vegetables available and ready to eat. Introducing new healthy foods to young ones before school starts can make the transition back to school easier with healthy habits under their belts. Instilling healthy habits early on will not only support children’s mental and physical states but also empower them to nourish themselves and be better prepared for life’s goals and challenges.
A diet full of a variety of fruits and vegetables provides the nutritional foundation of vitamins and minerals the body needs to set the stage for better academic outcomes and athletic performance. We are less likely to grab sugary snacks if our bodies have the nutrition needed from whole, unprocessed foods. Offering children a choice of healthy whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and protein encourages them to provide their bodies the macro and micro nutrients they need. If their only options are sugary and salty snacks, they miss the opportunity to develop a sense of nourishing themselves and instead risk a negative loop of brain fog, fatigue, and feeling cranky, which makes us want to grab more sugar.
Children typically understand the analogy of a bank account. Eating sugary or processed snacks is like withdrawing from your nutrient bank account. Without the nutritive deposits of nutrient dense foods in the diet, the account will be empty. Sugar, in particular, will deplete the body of much needed minerals every time you eat it. On the other hand, eating fruit, with its natural sugars and plenty of vitamins and minerals, is like adding to your bank account. We want to keep our accounts full so that we can spend those reserves where needed: a positive mood, mental acuity and physical well-being and performance. Talk to your children about the positive outcomes of eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to broaden their understanding of the relationship between nutrition and health.
Having a goal in mind and a plan to reach that goal is the foundation for achievement and can be implemented to reach personal academic or fitness goals. Setting a realistic goal like trying a new fruit or vegetable each week can be easier in the summertime while there is more variety. Each week, you can try goal setting with your children. If their goal is to be part of a successful soccer team, talking about the role of nutrition in fueling the body to achieve optimum physical performance can help them achieve their goal.
Taking advantage of your local farmer’s market is a great opportunity to develop healthy habits, integrate science concepts through nutrition and to incorporate nutrition into goal setting. Nutrition can easily be incorporated into your children’s goals whether they are academic performance or fitness goals. Choosing to eat healthy foods becomes a habit and an easier one once the benefits are understood. Work together with your children to integrate healthy food choices into the steps needed to achieve their goals. It could be having a fresh salad at dinner every night or trying a fruit or vegetable from the farmer’s market each week. A fresh, juicy strawberry or peach can be a very satisfying sweet treat on a hot summer day. These habits can be carried into the school year by choosing seasonal fruit as a snack over something processed.
Salads are another great way to incorporate new foods into your diet. Salads made with fresh greens can become more enticing with the tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs that are in season. It’s also a great way to exercise creativity. Some children will be drawn to the variety of colors and others will be drawn to the variety of flavors and textures. They might be surprised to find that tomatoes come in a variety of colors, not just red. Likewise, there are often several varieties of cucumbers, lettuces, and potatoes at a farmer’s market that allow for a more creative outlet when preparing healthy meals.
Typically, produce is harvested very early in the morning of the market to provide the freshest fruits and vegetables possible outside of picking something straight from your backyard, community, or school garden. Fresh produce that comes directly from the farm to your table will have the most nutrition since it has spent very little time in transit to the grocery store.
Oftentimes, the farmers at the produce stand are eager to talk about their farm, what they grow, and when they harvested the produce they are selling that day.
The farmer’s market can be more than just place of purchase. Oftentimes, the farmers at the produce stand are eager to talk about their farm, what they grow, and when they harvested the produce they are selling that day. These markets offer an invaluable way to connect with your community to learn new things and share ideas. For instance, if a vegetable is new to you and you are not sure how to prepare it, the farmer is usually happy to share a simple and delicious way to prepare something.
Learning about the farms in your area and their role in growing regional produce can open a new world of understanding of where our food comes from and who grows it. Learning about seasons and the regional diversity of crops can offer a lens through which to look deeper into the relationship between your local climate, agriculture, and food systems. It presents a great opportunity to incorporate nutrition into geography and ecology lessons. Regional geography and ecology lessons become more alive when the aspect of foods traditionally grown in a state or region is part of the lesson. Children begin to connect the dots when they understand why citrus grows well in Florida and California, why tomatoes need hot weather, and why banana trees don’t grow in northern climates.
Forming healthy eating habits early promotes healthy attitudes and expectations of the relationship between nutrition and health. Learning how to choose healthy foods will not only provide the nutrition we need but will also empower children with the information on how different foods can affect their goals and experiences in life. School and athletic performance alike are effected by our food choices. If a child has a certain goal set for the school year or their sports team, making healthy choices around food can have a positive impact if healthy habits are formed early. Now is a great time to identify goals with your children and to outline the steps needed to achieve those goals.