Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Importance of Summer Meals and Nutrition for Kids

Approximately four days after school let out for the year, I was (lovingly) joking with some other moms about how long it would be until next September arrives. We all cherish and adore our children, of course, but the change in routine and schedule can really feel as though it alters reality a little bit, right?

But while I was focused on just what activities and events we were going to take part in to fill our every waking hour, one topic that didn't even cross my mind was nutrition. Eating well-balanced meals. The overall importance of staying healthy all summer long.

With summer schedules getting in the way of eating healthy meals and the fact that most kids don't eat the recommended servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains (and instead exceed the maximum daily intake of sodium), one thing I don't need is to add any more possibility of my kids experiencing the "summer slide" than they already have.

Which is why I was happy to have the opportunity to attend an online discussion led by child development expert Dr. Michele Borba (who has joined forces with the Walmart Foundation) to raise awareness about the importance of summer meals and nutrition and the impact that nutrition can have on a child’s development.

Dr. Michele Borba Walmart Foundation

We all know that eating regular, nutritious meals benefits children's health and development and helps keep them focused, less stressed and more prone to learning, but do you take steps to ensure that this occurs over the summer?

Dr. Borba has some great tips to make sure that your kids continue to eat healthy while away from school:
  • Preparation: Have children be a part of the meal-planning process. Work together to pick recipes for the week and talk to your kids about the ingredients needed, having them help make the grocery list. Then bring kids to the grocery store or visit a farmers' market or local farm to make purchases.
  • Storage: Color-code foods. Assigning foods into three different color categories (Green for "eat all the time," yellow for "eat sometimes" and red for "eat once a week") cuts down on nagging or asking time and time again for unhealthy options. Make healthy snacks visible and easy to grab on the way out the door and the whole family can make great choices quickly and easily!
  • Meal Time: Enjoy a fun, relaxed time together. Introduce new foods in quarter-sized portions for picky eaters and be sure to try new foods many times to give them a chance (it can take 7-15 times for taste buds to change). Most importantly, make meal time an unplugged time, turning off all devices and gadgets so that it can be spent focused on each other instead.
family dinner

Along with the healthy eating and nutrition of my own children, however, it makes my heart hurt even more to think of the children who aren't as fortunate as mine. The millions of low-income children who benefit from lunch programs during the school year... who then go without access to meals during the summer. What are they supposed to do?

That's where the Walmart Foundation has stepped in to truly make a difference. By awarding $14 million in grants to five nonprofits, they will be helping provide 1.7 million children and families access to free meals and nutrition education programs.

These grants will end up expanding access to meals for children outside of school this summer and throughout the year, while also teaching families how to develop healthy, low-cost eating habits in more than 450 communities across the nation. Amazing, right? The five nonprofits include:
  • Alliance for a Healthier Generation: Increase access to healthy food and nutrition education for children and parents outside of school in eight U.S. cities, including Little Rock, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Calif. and Washington D.C.
  • Food Research and Action Center: Increase access, participation and awareness of nutrition programs that provide meals to children across the country during the school year and summer months.
  • Texas Hunger Initiative: Expand sponsorship and locations for summer and after school meal programs throughout Texas, while increasing participation by 583,000 children.
  • YMCA of the USA: Expand the YMCA’s Summer Food Program at more than 2,300 sites to provide children with access to meals outside of school year-round.
nonprofits

The grants are part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s $2 billion commitment through 2015 to help fight hunger in America, and Walmart’s 2011 initiative to provide customers with healthier and more affordable food choices. To learn more about Walmart’s commitment to fighting hunger and providing nutrition education, visit foundation.walmart.com.

This summer, don't only have a great time splashing at the pool or hanging out at the park, be sure to help your own children retain the information that they learned during the school year and fill their plates with nutritious meals throughout the day.

At the same time, don't forget that there are many children will be without access to meals they would normally receive while in school, so a big thank you to Walmart and their summer giving programs. These programs directly benefit the children and families that need it most, as receiving healthy meals is an important
topic all year long.

I was compensated by Walmart and The Motherhood for my participation in this campaign, however, all thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.

3 comments:

Maria Iemma said...

Sometimes it is hard to get kids to eat during the summer months. They just want to go outside and play - I make sure they have a nutritious breakfast, a light lunch with plenty of milk and a good balanced dinner.

Darlene Ysaguirre said...

I like to sneak veggies and fruit into every meal i use lots of whole grain and puree veggies and mix them into just about everything my children eat

MaryAnn said...

I haven't been to great lately about getting my son to eat nutritious. He is always too busy to want to eat.