summer

Summer Vacation – How to Eat Healthy

The weather is hot, the car is packed, the road trips begin, and kids are out of school. It’s the lazy (yet often busy!) days of summer.

By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.

However – just because it’s summer, don’t get lazy with choosing healthy foods for your family! Summer vacation is the perfect time to experiment with new recipes and fresh flavours – enjoying food and getting the necessary fuel for all your activities.

Fresh Seasonal Ingredients

Luckily most foods can be found at our grocery store, no matter what time of the year – however, their nutrition is at its peak when they are in season.  Fresh seasonal summertime ingredients that are loaded with antioxidants and fibre include1

  • strawberries 

  • blueberries

  • tomatoes 

  • melons 

  • sweet corn

  • kale

One great way to eat fresh veggies and fruit when they’re in season is simple – by themselves! Make a fruit and veggie platter and keep it in the fridge. As a quick snack, strawberries, blueberries, and tomatoes are hydrating, provide essential nutrients and also contain nutrients like Vitamin C which enhances iron absorption!

If you’re in the mood for more of a culinary adventure, try some of these delicious recipes featuring fresh summer ingredients:

Grilled Chicken, Watermelon, and Tomato Salad:  Believe it! These ingredients go together and make a delicious meal that is balanced with sweetness from watermelon and acid from tomatoes. Plus, you get a healthy dose of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, B-Vitamins and of course protein from the chicken!

Chicken Pasta Salad with Saskatoon Berries:  Delicious, wild Saskatoon berries are highlighted in this recipe. These berries are harvested in early July for about 2-3 weeks – so enjoy them fresh in the summer and freeze them for the fall/winter!2

On the Go

One of the best investments you’ll make this summer is a cooler! Being on the go in the summer means you will have to take a bit of time to plan your healthy meals. And you’ll need to figure out how to store them. Food can only remain in room temperature for 2 hours maximum before bacteria begins to grow rapidly.3,4 Once eaten after this time, you are at a greater risk of developing a foodborne illness. 

Therefore, having a cooler will allow you to keep foods at a food safe temperature (less than 4 °C) so you can enjoy family outings and still eat the healthy meals you’ve prepared.3,4

When putting your food in coolers, make sure that you follow these steps:

  • Use containers that are sturdy and won’t allow liquid to seep through.

  • Ensure that food is properly cooled before putting into cooler – if not this may affect the temperature of the cooler.

  • Have a thermometer in the cooler to verify food is being kept safe.

  • Don’t overload the cooler with a lot of food/containers – it will make it harder to keep all the food cold.

  • Put ice around all items in the cooler to ensure even distribution and consistent temperatures.

Here are two super-quick picnic recipes that are easy to assemble for when you’re on the go:

Fruit & Nut Wrap:  This recipe is so great for when you need a quick lunch for your kids on a road trip. Wraps are hand-held – so no messing around with utensils in a car, plane, or train!

Fresh Chicken Wraps:  Because this wrap contains fresh tomatoes and lettuce it should be made to order, to avoid it getting soggy. For a picnic, put the lettuce and tomatoes in one container and chicken and tzatziki in another…assemble onsite! 

Summer Cooking School

Getting kids interested in cooking and healthy eating is extremely important in improving their health.3 Research shows that children find their parents are #1 at teaching them about food…and #2 are their teachers.3 So, when schools out for the summer, try having a summer cooking school in your home!  

Make a Meal with your Kids

  • Work with your kids in the kitchen to make a healthy summer meal.  Get them to choose the ingredients for the dish and help them assemble the parts of the recipes. For example, do a rendition of this Chicken Fajita wrap with sweet corn and fresh tomatoes! www.chicken.ca/recipes/kid-tastic-chicken-fajitas

Garden Parties!

  • Test out your green thumb this summer. Kids love to see how things come to life. Plant some snow peas, tomatoes or even strawberries and have your youngster learn about the environment, agriculture, and wholesome food.

Make Nutrition Matter 

  • Choose one summer fruit or vegetable a week to feature during one or two of your meals. Discuss the nutrients that are found in these foods. Your child will be learning about nutrition in a fun way and can teach the rest of the family about this new knowledge!

During the summer your family should be relaxed, eating foods that make them feel energized and satisfied. By having nutritious recipes up your sleeve and a family committed to choosing healthy options…you’re well on your way to eating healthy all summer long!

References:

  1. Produce for Better Health Foundation. (2015). What’s In Season? Summer. April 28, 2015, from  www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/whats-in-season-summer

  2. Ontario Berry Growers Association. (2011). Saskatoon Berries. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://ontarioberries.com/site/berry-info/saskatoon-berries.html

  3. Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care. (2008). Food Safety. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/publichealth/foodsafety/cook.aspx

  4. Chicken Farmers of Canada. (2015). Food Safety at Home. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from www.chicken.ca/chicken-school/view/4/chicken-and-food-safety-an-easy-guide

  5. Health Canada. (2010). Improving Cooking and Food Preparation Skills: A Synthesis of the Evidence to Inform Program and Policy Development. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/alt_formats/pdf/nutrition/child-enfant/cfps-acc-synthes-eng.pdf

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