The summer holidays are in full swing, and we are all celebrating (let’s be honest… it’s been a challenging year). Everyone--including me—is loving the warm weather and grateful to get active outside. What I notice though, as a registered dietitian, is that nutrition tends to suffer a little bit through the summer months, because there’s a lack of routine, LOTS of snacking, later bedtimes, and cool sugary treats here, there, and everywhere.
These are all fun and part of why the summer is so wonderful, but in order to keep kiddos properly nourished and hydrated (AND keep your sanity!), I’ve got a few summer feeding tips for you as well as some dietitian-approved, kid-tested snack ideas and recipes below as well!
The crazy thing about summer is that the hours can blend together. It’s easy to wake up in the morning only to blink and it's lunch time. Seriously where does the time go!? With kids at home, this can be a recipe for disaster. It’s important to keep a meal and snack schedule so that kids (and adults) don’t become “hangry.” Try to schedule eating times to align with recess and school lunch--this works well in our house. Kids thrive off of a schedule, and it’s a great way to help them to learn how to self-regulate their appetite. Leave about 2-3 hours in between eating opportunities so that they have an opportunity to build an appetite.
It’s no secret that kids love snacks, and from a nutritional standpoint, they’re essential. Our little ones have smaller stomachs than we do, which means they need to eat more often to fill nutritional gaps and keep energy levels up. The tricky part for many parents is finding a snack that’s nutritious, easy to prepare and appealing to kids. I’m finding more and more that parents are relying on ultra-sweet, processed snacks to stave off hunger between meals, to distract in the checkout line, or soothe during a tantrum. As important as it is to serve snacks, it’s just as important to serve nutrient-dense snacks that aren’t loaded with sugar (and serve them for the right reasons–to fill nutritional gaps in between meals).
Some of my favourite summer snacks for kids are homemade trail mix, nutritious bars, energy bites, and drinkable yogourt! I put together some of my favourite snacks and recipes below. One of our easy go-to’s is Stonyfield organic kids yogourt drink. It’s nutritious, portable, and hydrating, with the added benefit of being lower in added sugar compared to other brands! Stonyfield is the first certified organic kids drinkable yogourt available in Canada! So, what’s the big deal about choosing organic? The milk in this yogourt comes from cows that are organically fed and have access to the outdoors: fresh air, sun and access to organic pasture are essential for their health, and it’s the right thing to do! Organic cows are healthy and happy cows.
As a dietitian, I also love that these organic yogourt drinks are small but mighty. They offer my kids a healthy dose of protein, calcium and probiotics too. Plus, you can use it as a base for a yummy smoothie. Check out the recipes below.
It’s important to serve a variety of snack foods, to expose kids to different flavours, textures and nutrients. It’s also important to serve snacks that are nutrient-dense and not overly processed or packed with sugar. We know that consuming too much sugar can lead to fairly serious health consequences like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and obesity. And it’s no secret that kids – in general – consume too much (which can also displace other nutrients). But what parents are confused about is how much sugar is ok, and how to make nutritious snack choices for their families.
When it comes to sugar, parents should aim for less added sugar and total sugar when choosing foods for their family. The natural sugar found in fruits and dairy products is less of a concern because those foods are also packed full of nutrition (they are nutrient-dense).
It means cutting back on high-sugar, processed and packaged foods like super sweet snacks, candy and store-bought cookies, limiting or avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages, and cutting back on sugar in baking, sauces and spreads.
As much as I’d always love to serve my kids real, whole-food snacks, convenience, ease and portability are also key, so it’s nice to have a few packaged snacks on hand that I can feel good about. And as mentioned above, one of those is Stonyfield organic kids yogourt drink. One of these drinks only has 4 grams of sugar per bottle – which is great news, as most packaged snacks have much MUCH more. And I’ve already mentioned Stonyfield's organic advantage, which makes it the perfect snack for little ones.
1) There’s less than ten grams of added sugar per serving:
It’s important that we limit the total daily amount of sugar to less than 100 grams per day, and a good way to do that is to choose lower sugar snack foods. When it comes to packaged snack foods, my rule of thumb is to choose snacks that contain ten grams of total sugar or less per serving (you can view the amount of sugar on the Nutrient Facts Table).
2) There's a short list of ingredients (that you can pronounce and understand!):
I always look at the ingredients list first, to make sure that it contains real, wholesome food ingredients, that it’s a relatively short list, and that there aren’t artificial colours, flavours, or many additives or preservatives. Keep in mind that the ingredients are listed in order – the most to the least.
3) Protein and/or dietary fibre:
Both protein and dietary fibre provide many health benefits individually, but one benefit they have in common is that they both keep tummies fuller longer and help to stabilize energy levels, blood sugar levels and appetite.
You have just inherited little sous chefs for the summer – put them to work! Get them involved in the snack process – from planning and grocery shopping to prepping and serving. Kids crave control and will thrive when given a task. Having them help in the kitchen will not only teach them important life skills, but it’s also a great strategy in helping kids accept and try new foods! After all – they’ve had a hand in making it!
Green Machine Blender Muffins
o 2 cups rolled oats
o 1/4 cup chia seeds
o 2 tsp baking powder
o 1/2 tsp baking soda
o 1/2 tsp salt
o 1 tsp cinnamon
o 1/2 cup maple syrup
o 1 Stonyfield organic yogourt drink
o 5 cups spinach
o 1/4 cup butter, softened
o 3 ripe bananas
o 2 extra large eggs
o 1 tsp vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 375 F and grease 2 12-cup muffins tins
2. Place dry ingredients in a good quality blender and pulse until finely blended
3. Transfer to a medium sized bowl
4. Place wet ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth. Add dry ingredients back, and on low speed, gently blend until smooth.
5. Fill 2 12-cup muffin tins from your blender (2/3 full for each cup)
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until baked (if you press on top of muffin, it will bounce back)
Chocolate Chia Protein Balls
o 1 cup oats (I used quick-cooking steel-cut oats)
o 1 cup peanut butter (or pumpkin seed butter if you're making for school)
o 1/4 cup chia seeds
o 2 1/2 tbsp honey
o 1 tbsp coconut oil
o 1 tsp vanilla extract
o 2 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
o 1/4 tsp salt
o 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1. Add all of the ingredients except the chocolate chips into a food processor and process until well-blended. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add chocolate chips. Mix well.
2. Roll into 1-inch balls, line them up on a parchment covered baking sheet and chill for at least 20 minutes before serving. Transfer to a container or zip plastic bag for storage in the fridge or freezer.
• Apple slices with nut butter and shredded coconut
• Carrots, cucumber and stringless sugar snap peas with hummus
• Cheese cubes, whole grain crackers and apple slices
• Homemade muffin with a glass of milk
• Stonyfield organic yogourt drink and berries
• Fruit and yogourt smoothie (made with Stonyfield organic yogourt drink) – to make, blend one Stonyfield organic yogourt kids drink with 1/3 cup frozen fruit and 1 tbsp hemp hearts or flaxseed. Blend until smooth!
• Whole grain tortilla, banana and peanut butter wraps
• Leftover French toast strips dipped in Greek yogourt and hemp hearts
• Homemade energy protein balls with fruit
• Peach slices with mozzarella cheese
• Grapes and a glass of milk
• Celery with almond butter
• Roasted chickpeas and fruit
• Steamed edamame beans and carrot sticks
• Mini whole grain pitas with hummus