If we're going to be honest, mealtime at the end of the school year can get a little sketchy. While September lunches might feature fresh fruit kabobs and whole grain pasta salad, lunches in May are looking good if they cover a couple of food groups, and are something the lunch-eater will actually eat. Breakfast can be much the same; you might send your student into the crisp autumn air nourished by scratch-made whole wheat pancakes or quiche. May rolls around, and the family is hard-pressed to find both a half-full box of cereal and a half-full carton of milk in the house.
And what about during the summer? Is it doughnuts for breakfast and hot dogs for dinner most days of the week, with endless snacks in between? It might be tempting to give in to the Summer Slide, and take an uber-lenient stance on food rules. However, the warm months might be the perfect time to develop a revamped and refreshed Family Eating Plan for Summer (we’ll call it FEPS). Not only is it totally possible to eat healthfully together as a family during the summer, but you and your family will benefit immensely from it. Here’s why, and here’s how:
- You probably know by now that kids in families who eat meals together several times per week are more prone to higher self-esteem, a better vocabulary, and higher grade point averages. But did you know that these kids also lower risks for obesity, teen substance abuse, eating disorders, and depression? Make meal time conversation fun and interesting by trying out some dinnertime topics found here https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/tag/inspiration/
- Setting goals together is a great way to build trust and communication as a family, and is a powerful way to teach children about goal-setting. Setting the family-wide goal to adopt a healthy FEPS can help each family member to feel like an important team member in the quest to eat healthfully together.
- Start with a family trip to the grocery store (be sure to pick one with an impressively-large produce section). Set a challenge for each family member to pick out a protein and a produce they’re not familiar with. Get creative with different proteins, such as mung beans, tofu, different kinds of nuts or seeds, or bison.
- Believe it or not, you can actually get to know each other in a new way by meal planning and cooking together, and you can help your kids unlock a creative side they might not realize they have. Also, kids are often more likely to open up when the two of you are fixated on a project side-by-side, than when sat down face-to-face.
- Try fun theme-dinner nights, such as foods that begin with your last name initial, foods that are each members’ favorite color (no artificial dyes, please!), or foods that can all be eaten on a stick. Our favorite: have one night a week be “Foods Around the World Night,” and take turns choosing which country feature through the food you prepare and eat together. The whole family can learn information about, and appreciation for, people and cuisine globe-wide.
We encourage your family to develop your very own FEPS. Not only will you eat healthfully, but you can grow closer, learn a few things, and have a lot of fun, too.