It is important to provide balanced, nutritious meals for your children throughout the summer. Unfortunately, summertime can pose challenges to the family food budget because children are eating more meals at home.
“There are summer meal programs available for families that need assistance,” said Terry Egan, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension. Food banks or food pantries, local Boys and Girls Clubs, daycares and summer schools are just a few places that may provide meals for children.
If all meals are provided at home, here are some tips to help keep costs down:
- Choose a variety of healthy foods so children don’t get bored with the same foods. Try sandwich wraps with meat and veggies inside, fresh and canned fruits for sweetness and nutrition, and low-fat milk to round out the meal.
- Choose whole grains, which help you feel full. Whole-grain cereals and breads are great for breakfast and lunch, and whole-grain oatmeal raisin cookies provide staying power.
- Choose new, interesting or favorite vegetables from a local farmer’s market. Vegetables have lots of nutrients and fiber to help you feel full. Have vegetables washed, cut and ready in the refrigerator to add to meals or to eat as snacks.
- Drink lots of water. Water cools us off, hydrates the body and helps us feel full longer.
- Use caution with low-nutrient foods like chips, snack cakes, cookies, soda and juice drinks. These foods can be very expensive and they are not very filling or satisfying.
- Let your children help plan meals and snacks so they can have some of their favorite foods. If they help plan or prepare meals, they are more likely to eat them. Also, planning ahead can really save money in your food budget.
- Enjoy the foods of summer — blueberries, strawberries, peaches, watermelons and fresh garden veggies are always a treat. If you eat produce while it’s in season, it typically costs less and it tastes better so your children will be more likely to eat it and enjoy it.