Summertime always brings a breeze of carefree fun and, with it, the desire to sleep in late, splash away the afternoon at the pool, and eat junk food. Or, at least, it used to. Since we have switched to whole, real foods (and since recently taking our already healthy eating habits up a notch), the desire to be carefree and let my kids eat junk has been replaced with the desire to nourish their bodies with healthy, homemade foods.
The problem with trying to stick to our real food diet is that summer activities are not conducive to healthy eating! Cookouts, birthday parties and sleepovers pose an interesting dilemma when trying to be sure your family stays on track food-wise.
So, what can you do to allow your family (and especially your kids) to enjoy typical summertime activities without eating typical summertime foods?
1. Plan ahead. Plan ahead. Plan ahead. I can’t say it enough. Although I am not good at menu planning on a regular basis, I do try to be prepared for the various activities we have planned for this summer.
A recent cookout that involved a big group had me making some delicious raw milk ice cream sweetened with honey so I could be sure our family could enjoy a treat along with everyone else, without indulging in pre-packaged, store-bought cookies with who-knows-what in them. The kicker: everyone else loved my ice cream too!
Additionally, I’ve been busy in the kitchen making granola bars and crackers to take on a trip this week. Having these snacks on hand will ensure we aren’t tempted to stop and grab convenience store snacks. Other favorite snacks include organic raisins and apples, neither of which requires any preparation! I’ve come to the conclusion that I would rather spend some extra time in the kitchen than go with whatever may be convenient.
For a while, we would just say “It’s okay, we’ll eat junk just on this special occasion,” but soon realized there are a LOT of special occasions you can justify eating junk for!
Our new motto is “be prepared.” We always bring our own treats (even if it’s just something small I sneak the kids), so we aren’t tempted to give in when it comes to artificial color-adorned, chemically-enhanced birthday cake or other sugar-laden treats.
2. Check your ego. Nourishing your family with real food is simply about taking care of your family as best you can. That is all. You can’t worry about what other people will think about the fact that you brought your own food, nor do you need to make anyone else feel uncomfortable about their decisions regarding food. You eat what you eat and they eat what they eat. Just leave it at that unless someone shows genuine interest in why you don’t allow your kids to eat hotdogs or how you made ice cream without sugar. The sooner you realize you don’t have to explain yourself at every turn, the better off you’ll be!
3. Take a breath! Remember, summertime IS about having fun! I admit, I’ve been driving myself a bit crazy lately trying to be sure my kids have NO sugar, NO grains that have not been soaked/fermented, NO pasteurized dairy… my list goes on and on. And honestly, it’s exhausting. But, it’s a commitment I’ve made for the health of my kids and family.
However, sometimes, it just doesn’t work out the way you plan. I sent peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (organic PB&J on homemade sourdough, of course!) with my husband for the kids to have at a birthday party recently (instead of the pizza that I knew was going to be there). My husband was so uncomfortable pulling out homemade sandwiches that he just went ahead and let the boys eat pizza.
My first reaction was to be hurt and upset, but I soon realized it wasn’t worth stressing so much about. I think we would all agree we’d rather our children not eat take-out pizza. But, one time of eating pizza isn’t going to kill them, and I just made sure they had some extra kombucha the next day. I’m looking out the window at them now, happily munching on carrots and apples, and I know their foray into pizza eating didn’t do any long term damage!
Here are a few of my favorite summer recipes from around the web:
- Homemade Ice Cream (we use raw milk, honey, pastured eggs and real or homemade vanilla)
- Lacto-Fermented Strawberry Lemonade
- Homemade, Honey-Sweetened Marshmallows (I cannot tell you how excited my kids are to be able to eat marshmallows again!) Make your own (or purchase organic) graham crackers and chocolate bars for a REALLY special treat in the form of s’mores!
While we are all at different levels of commitment and different stages in our whole foods journey, I hope you will be inspired to take a detour from the typical summer cuisine and make some special treats for your family that you can all feel good about!