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Although it seems like Spring Break just happened, it is actually time for summer vacation—a happy time for everyone! There’s no more getting up at the crack of dawn, packing lunches or homework. Days are now filled with driving to and from various camps, swimming and trips to amusement parks and the beach.

Kids and parents alike are busy during the summer, so it is important to be fueled up with healthy foods and properly hydrated to be able to make it from dance camp to the pool party and everywhere in-between.

Guidelines to consider for a fun and healthy summer:

Try to stick to a normal eating and sleeping pattern.
Even though kids now have a later bedtime and do not have to get up early, it is important for their growth and brain development, as well as appetite and satiety to have enough sleep. In addition, because children eat smaller portions, they still need to eat those 3 meals and perhaps even 2-3 snacks per day in order to meet their nutritional needs. To make sure everyone is hungry for scheduled meal times, you may want to set times when the kitchen is “closed” during the day and a time for when the kitchen is “closed” for the night.

Stay active.
This ensures that children will burn off those extra calories from the parties, amusement park or carnival. Physical activity will also help them be tired enough to sleep when it is bedtime.

Check out the “camp menu.”
Many camps do not have to follow the same nutrition guidelines that schools do. Feel free to pack their lunch, or add some healthy snacks to help balance out their day.

Stay hydrated.
Kids may be outdoors in the heat more during the summer than during the school year, and making sure they drink enough fluids will prevent dehydration. Younger kids need about 4-6 servings (6-ounces each) of fluid per day, whereas older kids require approximately 7-10 servings (8-ounces each) per day. Fluid needs will depend on their level of activity, as well as the temperature and humidity. Remember to try and not “drink” your calories. Juices, soft drinks and sports drinks can contain a lot of sugar. With my kids, I treat these beverages as a “treat” and have them drink low-fat milk with their meals, and water in between meals, if they are thirsty.

Modify summertime favorites.
Healthy summer snacks for kids are possible. Find ways to add fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy to meals and snacks. For example, substitute corn or whole wheat tortillas for regular flour tortillas. Dip celery, broccoli florets or baby carrots into queso in addition to tortilla chips. Use ground turkey breast to make burgers or meatloaf. Add pinto or black beans to nachos. Make your own sweet potato fries. Swap regular hotdogs for turkey dogs or reduced-fat all-beef franks. Make your own ice cream and popsicles; that way you can control the ingredients. I have included some fun, kid-friendly summertime recipes. Trying new recipes is a great way to introduce your family to different, seasonal produce and a way to put a healthy twist on some of their favorite foods.

Bottom line – summer should be full of fun activities and delicious foods that make wonderful memories to last the whole year!

Kid Friendly Summertime Recipes:

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream
(Makes about 7 cups)

  • 4 cups sliced, frozen bananas
  • 2 cups frozen, unsweetened strawberries
  • 1/2 cup rice, almond, light coconut or regular milk (any milk will work)

Directions: Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until you have a “soft serve” consistency in your ice cream.
Note: You will have to take the lid off and scrape/move things around with a spatula several times through this process. It will get smooth, so don’t give up. Just keep blending and scraping.

Nutritional Content (Data is for 1 cup)
Calories: 94; Total Fat: 1 gm; Saturated Fats: 0 gm; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 15 mg; Carbohydrates: 24 gm; Dietary fiber: 3 gm; Sugars: 12 gm; Protein: 1 gm

© The Gracious Pantry. All rights reserved.


Sandwich on a Stick (makes 10 kabobs)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Another day, another sandwich. You look in the fridge and decide what to slap together—Bread, spread, fillings. Lunch by rote. But have you ever tried putting a sandwich on a stick? For starters, all of the ingredients stay much fresher that way.


  • 2 cups bread, cubed (ciabatta, French or other hearty bread works)
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed mozzarella and cheddar cheese
  • 1 slice thick-cut deli ham, cut into strips or cubes
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 10 skewers
  1. Skewer: 1 cube of bread, 1 cube of cheddar cheese, 1 piece of ham, 1 cherry tomato, another piece of ham, 1 cube of mozzarella cheese, and 1 cube of bread.
  2. Repeat with remaining skewers and ingredients.
  3. Serve with mustard for dipping.

Other foods that work great on a stick:

  • sliced or cubed turkey or roast beef
  • cucumbers
  • Swiss cheese
  • olives
  • mini pickles
  • leaf lettuce or spinach


  1. Skewer: 1 cube of bread, 1 cube of cheddar cheese, 1 piece of ham, 1 cherry tomato, another piece of ham, 1 cube of mozzarella cheese, and 1 cube of bread.
  2. Repeat with remaining skewers and ingredients.
  3. Serve with mustard for dipping.

Nutrition Information: (Serving Size=1 Kabob)
Total Calories: 90; Total Fat: 4.5g; Cholesterol: 10mg; Sodium: 210mg; Total Carbohydrates: 5g; Dietary Fiber: 0g; Protein: 6g


Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes:
Potatoes are one of the great comfort foods, especially when stuffed with a satisfying mixture of lean ground beef and broccoli florets plus reduced-fat sour cream and cheddar cheese. Add a tossed salad, and you have a healthy and hearty meal that will leave you feeling good.

4 servings | Active Time: 30 minutes | Total Time: 40 minutes

  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • 8 ounces 90%-lean ground beef (See Variation)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets, finely chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 scallions, sliced


  1. Pierce potatoes all over with a fork. Place in the microwave and cook on medium, turning once or twice, until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. (Or use the “potato setting” on your microwave, and cook according to the manufacturer’s directions.)
  2. Meanwhile, brown meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Increase heat to high, add broccoli and water to the pan, cover, and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the broccoli; add to the meat.
  3. Carefully cut off the top third of the cooked potatoes; reserve the tops for another use. Scoop out the insides into a medium bowl. Place the potato shells in a small baking dish. Add 1/2 cup Cheddar, sour cream, salt and pepper to the potato insides and mash with a fork or potato masher. Add scallions and the potato mixture to the broccoli and meat; stir to combine.
  4. Evenly divide the potato mixture among the potato shells and top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Microwave on High until the filling is hot and the cheese is melted, 2 to 4 minutes.

Nutrition Information: (per serving)

274 Calories; 10 g Fat; 5 g Sat; 4 g Mono; 52 mg Cholesterol; 24 g Carbohydrates; 22 g Protein; 2 g Fiber; 514 mg Sodium; 740 mg Potassium

Exchanges: 2 1/2 Starch, 3 lean meat

Tips & Notes:

  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare and stuff potatoes. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Microwave and serve.
  • Vegetarian Variation: Replace the ground beef with a soy-based substitute or omit the beef altogether and increase the broccoli to 1 1/2 cups and the cheese to 1 1/4 cups.
  • No microwave? No problem: Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce potatoes in several places with a fork. Bake directly on the center rack until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Fill the potato as directed and bake the stuffed potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet until the filling is hot, about 15 minutes.


Tarie Beldin, RD, LD, is a registered dietician with St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center.

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