Many parents believe raising healthy children includes instilling nutritious eating habits at an early age to create lifelong practices that promote good health.
Parents might not know that each season can offer different options for providing kids with healthy snack options.
Whole foods like produce
Lucas Schubert, nutritional health coordinator at St. Luke’s North Hospital — Smithville, said the first goal toward eating healthier should be replacing processed foods with whole foods like fresh produce, which can change with the seasons.
“I think the No. 1 goal is to try to eat more seasonal foods,” Schubert said. “The fruits and the veggies that are very specific for the season that will be really nourishing for our bodies.”
Schubert pointed to apples, berries, melons and cucumbers as light, cool and hydrating options, which he said bodies need during hotter months.
The nutrition expert also recommends eating whole fruits as a simple summer snack. For anyone looking to add a little variety, he suggests combining those items into a fruit salad or cutting up pieces to line on a skewer for a fruit kebab as a more mobile option.
Healthy drink options
One of the big hurdles to minimizing processed foods is limiting soft drinks and flavored juices. These choices are linked to high sugar consumption and potential unhealthy conditions including being overweight or having diabetes and heart disease.
Schubert offers up fruit-infused water as a healthy alternative to sugary beverages. He said dropping slices of fresh fruits, cucumbers or mint into water can help add flavor. For those having a hard time cutting back on the more sugary options, he suggests adding a dash of club soda, seltzer or juice.
While working with St. Luke’s Children’s Center on nutritional options, Schubert found homemade fruit Popsicles to be a hit with children craving a cooling treat.
“They’re great to have as a kid rather than getting the ones that you find in the store, which are just a lot of fruit juice and flavorings,” he said.
To make the frozen goodies, the health expert said to blend fruits such as watermelon or berries in a food processor and add a little water before pouring the contents into a Popsicle mold and placing it in the freezer.
While making and consuming frozen treats, Schubert cautions against relying too heavily on frozen foods during the summer months.
“Our bodies have to use a lot of energy to warm ourselves back up,” he said. “Popsicles would be fine if you’re kind of doing it moderately.”
Options for athletes
For athletes and other active people taking advantage of the warmer weather, Schubert said fruits such as oranges work great as snacks.
“(Fruits) are full of energy and sugar that will help during an activity,” he said.
Another recommended snack option for exercise enthusiasts is trail mix. Schubert suggests mixing ingredients oneself to avoid added sugars often found in store-bought mixes.
He also warns against the go-to choice of snack bars or protein bars because of large amounts of added sugars they often contain.
“They are really just glorified candy bars to some extent,” Schubert said. “There are nutritious bars out there that could be good for you when you are active or when you need some good fuel to get you going if you’re running or biking or hiking.”
Schubert reminds shoppers to always read ingredient and food labels to understand what is in it before eating.
“That’s always been our focus, just trying to read the food labels to understand what’s in your food so then you can really reduce the sugar consumption,” he said.