Summer Meal Planning for Families

It’s hard to believe that the school year is winding down, it seems like just yesterday was the first day of classes.  While the end of the school year is exciting for both parents and children, it also means a change of routine.  Changes in routines happen in every household, not just ones with children. Retirement, job changes, vacations, illness, etc. can all cause changes or disrupt our normal eating habits.   While we are focusing on ideas to navigate changes in routines for families we encourage you to keep reading even if your children are grown up or if you don’t have children, as we feel our tips will work for everyone.

 May is a good time to start thinking ahead and coming up with some summer plans for meals and activity. Shopping takes time and many people don’t enjoy it. The solution to this is a weekly grocery list.  Even older kids (and adults) need guidance and often times having a plan for the week makes eating simpler. Sit down with your family members and come up with 3 or 4 breakfast and lunch ideas. Use those meal ideas to make up a family menu! While planning these meals keep the myplate guidelines in mind. The goal with meals is to have at least 3-4 of the food groups present and to include plenty of variety.

 The simplest way to do this is to take foods you enjoy and then expand them.  For instance, breakfast is normally a sugary cereal.  Either change to high fiber cereal or go ½ sugary ½ healthy, use low fat milk, add a fruit and maybe some nuts/flaxseed and now you have taken an ok breakfast and made it healthy!  When people are in a hurry they fall back on what they are familiar with. The menu idea helps make it easier to remember the plan. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated and a good plan makes it a lot easier!

Here are some quick meal ideas:

-Whole grain waffles, add some fruit, nuts and a drizzle of syrup with a cup of skim milk.

-Banana/peanut butter on whole grain bread with a cup of skim milk.

-Whole grain bread, mustard, lean meat-turkey/chicken, add some lettuce, onions for a healthy sandwich. Add some raw vegetables, piece of fruit, and a low-fat yogurt-regular or Greek.

-Try yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit and/or vegetables. Throw in some nuts and you have a quick meal with endless options. 

-Leftovers and then add the part of the meal that is missing-fruit/veg/whole grain.

Part of our jobs as parents is to provide our children the skills they need to become successful adults. This includes teaching them how to eat healthy so they can help make the next generation healthier. Challenge your children to get involved in the kitchen. Have them help develop the menus, then prep the meals and finally have them be responsible for a meal or two a week. This will ultimately give you family time and teach them how to put a good meal together. 

Take your menu/shopping list and see if you can find some of your ingredients at a local farmer’s market. You will have family time, exercise and healthy meals all on one excursion!