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Yesterday evening I trimmed the first leaves of chard from my garden. Before I began, I stood there marveling at it. It’s hard not to. My oldest son, who’s five, got really excited when I told him I was taking the first harvest, so I let him help. While I pointed at the right spot, he snipped the thick, bright stems that looked like they’d been dipped in cherry juice.
Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure my son’s initial enthusiasm for chard will fade quickly. He and greens don’t get along. So that knocks out the leaf lettuce we’re growing too. Thankfully, the rest of the garden—tomatoes, hot peppers, cauliflower, and green beans—are all on his thumbs-up list. Our homegrown harvest plus our weekly stash of veggies and fruits from the local farmers market will make up the foundation of a healthy summertime menu.
While I wish my kids could eat perfectly balanced meals throughout the day, the reality is we’ve got limited time and pickiness—which changes on a near-daily basis! So, perfection isn’t realistic…imagine that. My daily goal is to pack in as much nutrition as I can, whenever I can. And I want to keep it simple too. This is even more important in the summer, because who wants to be in front of the stove when the sun is begging you to be outside?
For the next few months, my plan is to play hard and eat well with my kids. I want to take advantage of the season by using all the seasonal fruits and veggies I can to simplify and supercharge our meals. If you’re also looking to make summer fun and healthy for your little ones, check out these tips and recipes:
- Work together: Have your child pick out veggies he/she likes, and then design dinners around them for each night of the week. Kids love to be included in the plans, plus you know they’ll eat what they’ve chosen.
- Sugar coat it (sort of): All little kids have a “yuck list” (unless you’re really, really lucky). Serve them up something sweet instead: Disguise veggies in a smoothie. It’s a tried and true trick that easily solves a problem all parents have. Most greens blend up really well. You can even throw in tomatoes, cucumbers, or peppers and your kids won’t notice!
- Get to work: Get those kids in the garden! Explain the process of growth from seed to visible plant. Keep them informed of each plant’s progress. When it’s harvest time, recruit them to help, and then look up recipes together.
- Pizza-fy it: When you call a veggie “pizza,” it takes on a whole new appeal. From cauliflower to zucchini, there’s a veggie option that’ll work for your kids. While cauliflower crust will create a more traditional pizza look, it is more time consuming. If you’re in a rush, try this simple recipe instead.
- Get grilling: With easy cooking and cleanup, this is a no-brainer for summer. Get creative to get the kids’ attention. Peaches are perfect for summer, and so is pizza on the grill, corn on the cob (the kids can have fun shucking), or anything on a skewer!
What are your tips for happy, healthy kids? Share in the comments below!