Family mealWith the high rates of obesity in our country, families nationwide are trying to find ways to promote healthy and balanced eating. One common conundrum is that finances are often tight and buying fresh produce that only lasts a few days before wilting, shopping at the farmer’s market, or buying organic food just may not be feasible. Incorporating exercise into a busy day is also challenging. A research study last year that showed kids (regardless of household income) on summer break may not be making the best choices around food, so for parents, discussing healthy balanced eating year round with children and teens is important.

Healthy eating encompasses having from all food groups. This includes fruits, veggies, grains, as well as starches and fats. The study published in the Journal of School Health in June 2015 looked at national data on kids from grades 1 through 12. The authors of the study asked the question of whether or not there were differences in food choices and activity between kids from lower or higher income households over summer break and they did not find a difference. What they found is that youth watched more TV and drank more sugary beverages over the summer than during the school year regardless of income.

So how can parents promote healthy behaviors over summer break:

  1. Encourage your teen to have regular meals throughout the day. Instead of snacking, have breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner.
  2. When your teen asks to ‘hang out with friends’ encourage them to do something active. Instead of sitting indoors, go swimming, ride bikes (with a helmet), take a walk and talk with your friends. If it’s too hot to be outdoors during the day, walk the mall or play an interactive video game (like a dancing game).
  3. Avoid buying sugary beverages. Stock the refrigerator with a pitcher of water that has fruit at the bottom to give it flavor (strawberries, citrus, melons, even veggies like cucumbers infuse water with delicious flavors). Limit juices and avoid soda.

For ideas on recipes that can fit in a tight budget, check out this article on ‘cheap eats.’ The cookbook was written to fit a budget of $4/day and has bright, yummy appearing recipes.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has tips for teens on balanced eating and active living.