Whether your kids are going to camp, playing outside or heading out with the family on that road trip, you want to make sure they are eating healthy – without a lot of fuss. After all, helping your kids get into the habit of enjoying plenty of fruits, vegetables and other plant foods will load them up with nutrients and reduce their risk of cancer in the years ahead.
“Cancer prevention starts with kids, and they’re watching what you’re eating and how you’re living,” says Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, our partner in AICR’s Healthy Kids Today campaign. “So show them healthy eating can be fun and fit realistically with a busy schedule by planning ahead of time – and getting them involved.”
Here, Melissa offers parents some tips that will have your active kids eating healthy, wherever they’re off to.
For camp – hydrated and healthy
Kids can get distracted, so I try to include a drinkable fruit. I mix about 4 ounces of orange or pineapple juice with 4 ounces of unsweetened coconut milk beverage to give it island flare, ice, frozen mango and blueberries. Sometimes I’ll add baby spinach or kale. (Coconut milk drinks contain about 45 calories for half a cup but calories vary so be sure to look.) It’s in a solid container with a build in straw so you don’t even see the green. Then I pair this with either a mini-hummus, string cheese or 100% whole-grain crackers with no added sugar and baby carrots or fresh cherry tomatoes.
Other popular items are frozen corn or frozen peas –and yes kids eat them frozen, and on a hot day they taste great. Sometimes packaged, processed foods seem like an easier/better go-to because they don’t have to be temperature controlled. Another easy solution is to add a cold or frozen water bottle to your child’s pack – it will keep their food safe until it’s time to eat, and then keep them hydrated in the summer heat!
For road trips – planning ahead
When you’re on the go, healthy eating is all about planning ahead. Keep a cooler full of fresh fruits that are pre-washed, such as plums, apples and cherries. I’ve even pre-washed easily bruised fruits like nectarines, apricots and peaches and have wrapped them in paper towels or reusable cloth napkins. I put them in a big ziplock bag the night before we leave. They ripen up and get sweeter each day –and the wrap keeps them from getting bruised.
Precut fruits and veggies like watermelon, cucumber and jicama placed in mini-containers or plastic sandwich baggies are great too–just be sure to recycle. Bean dips with baked blue corn chips, string cheese and yogurt w/fruit, veggies and nuts can make easy mini-meals.
For on the go anytime – think color
An overall theme to packing any meal is to try to hit all the food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein –with optional dairy or calcium rich food. Nuts can be a part of a healthy meal too. Most importantly, think color!
Aim for at least four colors a day. For example a meal my daughter likes at breakfast is fried egg whites and basil with whole-grain toast and a side of fresh fruit like nectarines. So already we’ve got some green, orange and brown. Brown counts too – think walnuts, cinnamon, brown rice! Then plan your meals around what colors are missing! Purple coleslaw, white jicama, red tomatoes, black beans –color is another strategy that helps set your kids’ diets up now to prevent disease later and keep them healthy along the way.
Find more tips and recipes for your kids at AICR’s Healthy Kids Today – Prevent Cancer Tomorrow campaign.
Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, CDE is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, Certified Nutrition Support Dietitian and holds a Masters degree in Nutrition Education. Melissa has the Certificate of training for Childhood and Adolescent and Weight Management. She has over 10 years of diverse experience in nutrition management, clinical trials, teaching, media and writing and currently serves as Co-President elect of the Los Angeles District of the California Dietetic Association.