Summer is upon us, Cleveland! With longer days, summer vacations and varying schedules, it can be easy to forget about structured meal planning and regular cooking habits. Sometimes during busy or lazy summer days, a string of snacks throughout the morning and afternoon can even replace structured meals. During times like these, ensuring that snack times are opportunities for nutrition and healthy fuel is more important than ever! Think about it as creating mini-Lunchables but upgraded for more nutrition. Try these tips for building healthy summer snacks that both Mom and Baby will love.
Include at least one fruit or vegetable.
Experts say to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day with a goal of 10. Use snack time as an opportunity to work toward meeting this goal by including at least one fruit or vegetable with each snack. For example:
- Grilled zucchini and pineapple slices
- Watermelon, and
- Homemade fruit popsicles make great summer snacks with produce!
Try this fruit popsicle recipe:
Blend 5 oz. frozen fruit, 8 oz. coconut milk, 6 oz. plain yogurt and 1 tsp vanilla extract until smooth. Pour into popsicle molds or Dixie cups. Freeze for 30 min, add wooden popsicle sticks, and freeze for several more hours. Makes about 10 popsicles, depending on size of molds.
Pair produce with protein.
Protein increases satiety, meaning that you will feel fuller for longer. Protein is also needed for growing cells and muscles! Try:
- Sliced strawberries with string cheese
- Thinly spread peanut butter on apple slices or celery
- A hardboiled egg with tomato slices
- Tuna fish on squash medallions
Don’t forget about fiber.
Children need fiber too! Toddlers ages 1-3 years old should get about 19 grams of fiber per day. Adult women should get at least 26 grams. Fiber helps reduce cholesterol and keeps the intestines cleared. Use snack time to get a serving of fiber too! Fruits and vegetables are a great source, but whole grains such as oats and whole grain crackers are great options too! Ideas include:
- Peanut butter oat bars
- Whole grain crackers with applesauce
- Whole grain cereal with sliced peaches
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Dehydration can occur quickly in the summer heat. Don’t forget to include plenty of water throughout the day. Starting at age 4, children should get at least seven cups of water per day. Adults should aim for at least half their body weight (in pounds) in ounces per day. Keep in mind that this includes all fluid sources such as water, soups, popsicles, other drinks, and water-containing fruits and vegetables (think watermelon, cucumbers, and apples!)
Make drinking water fun by adding natural flavors with chopped up fruits and herbs. Try:
- Strawberries and basil
- Cucumbers and mint
- Lemon and ginger
Portion sizes for Baby’s snack should be smaller than Mom’s. Watch for hunger and fullness cues such as pushing food away, focusing attention elsewhere and starting to play with the food rather than eating. Allow Baby to stop snacking when full rather than forcing her/him to finish it all. This promotes healthy eating habits in connection to the body’s cues.
LOCAL FOOD SHOPPING INCENTIVES
Full-service grocery stores will, of course, have healthy food options to create snacks, but to help grow the local economy and support your neighbors, why not stop at your local farmers’ market? Check out Edible Cleveland’s list of local markets in the area: http://ediblecleveland.com/resources/markets.
For SNAP recipients, most farmers’ markets offer a great program called Produce Perks: for each dollar you spend (up to $20) you get another dollar [free] to buy more fruits and vegetables. That’s double the food and double the yum! If you don’t think you will use all the fresh produce before it goes bad, consider washing, chopping and freezing extra to use in smoothies, oatmeal and yogurt parfaits.
Moms utilizing the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) can also receive produce coupons to use at local markets. Ask at your local WIC clinic for more details about coupons, dates and locations.
For seniors (ages 60+) meeting income requirements, many markets and farm stands in the area also accept Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program coupons. In Cuyahoga County, the Western Reserve Area on Aging administers the program. Call 800-626-7277 for more details.
Below are some more safety tips for Baby’s snacks. Always talk to your baby’s doctor if you have any questions before trying something new!
Be aware of the 8 most common food allergies.
If you have not introduced all eight of the most common food allergens to your baby yet, be sure to do so one at a time before offering mixed dishes where you may not know which food caused a reaction, if one occurs. A true food allergy involves an immune system response. The common food allergies are:
- Tree nuts
Symptoms of a reaction can include hives, itching, dermatitis, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing, and anaphylactic shock. When trying a new food, be careful to watch for signs of a reaction for several hours after eating.
Avoid choking hazards.
Children under four years old are at risk of choking on a variety of small or sticky foods. Avoid the following foods for safety:
- Chewing gum
- Chunks of peanut butter
- Hard or gooey candies
- Hot dog chunks
- Nuts and seeds
- Raisins and other small, dried fruits
- Whole grapes
Always supervise snack time and do not allow children to run around while eating. This can increase risk for choking. Family meal and snack times should take place seated together without distractions such as electronics and games. This allows for focused attention on the food, family bonding and building habits for meal and snack time!
Farmers markets are great places to purchase fresh foods, all while you support local businesses. Produce Perks offer double your money if you use SNAP benefits on fresh produce, and there are also WIC and Senior coupons available!
Happy, healthy snacking!
Food Strong (www.FoodStrong.org) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering and strengthening communities through fresh, local foods. Through our programs such as School Gardens and Care-A-Van, we aim to educate the community on the importance of healthy eating. Through our strategic partnerships, we are able to bring the best information to our community members! Jessica Jurcak of On the Move Nutrition leads our organization’s nutrition-related activities. She has kindly put together an article sharing healthy summer snacks for moms and babies.
Contact Executive Director Sara Continenza at [email protected] with any questions or to get involved!