When you spend a majority of your time at a pediatric dental office in Mt. Pleasant, you get to know your young patients pretty well.
I know kids look forward to the summer because school is out, and they can start having new adventures outside of the classroom. It’s a time for them to explore and make memories.
I know they also look forward to summer for many of the same reasons you and I do– barbecues, pool parties, picnics, and all the other great social activities summer provides. In that way, we’re on the same page as our kids.
But, for kids, those summer activities bring along foods and drinks that are chock full of sugar. Kool aid, popsicles, cold soft drinks, highly sweetened lemonade, and even main course dishes.
All of these snacks, drinks, and meals are actively working against your child’s oral health during the summer months.
It’s hard to ban sugar altogether, but you can substitute some healthy, easy recipes to lighten their sugar intake and meet their nutritional needs.
Enjoying Healthier Food
The obvious question you might bring up is “How do I get my child to enjoy these healthy recipes? They’re already stuck in their ways.”
Being a picky eater is usually part of being a kid. We were probably all pickier as children than we are now. It’s natural, so we can’t be too hard on them. It is our job, as parents, to help them eat healthy, but strongarming tactics and bribery will only take us so far.
Instead, here’s what I recommend: when children and parents create food from recipes together, the children are more inclined to eat and enjoy those foods.
They’re already invested in the food you made together, so they’re more likely to eat and enjoy it.
If you haven’t tried asking them for a little helping hand in the kitchen (even if making the meal takes a little longer with their assistance), you might be surprised at how well it can work.
Anyway, onto the recipes.
Healthy Summer Food and Drinks for Kids
Sugary drinks rear their ugly heads more often than any other potentially teeth-rotting item during the summer. They are, after all, cool and refreshing. Water is much more cool and refreshing, but most kids will want to quench their thirst with a more flavorful beverage every now and again.
Here are two great options:
- Watermelon smoothie – You can make this drink as either a regular beverage or a heavier smoothie. It mostly uses blended watermelon and lime juice, so it’s not heavy on sugar. Though the recipe recommends three tbsp of maple syrup, you can try it with or without. Regardless, that’s not nearly as much sugar as most popular summer drinks.
- Lemon blueberry smoothie – Again, you can make this as a standard lemonade drink or as a smoothie. Though it uses lemonade concentrate, there’s no additional sugar added. When your kids are done, have them rinse their mouth out, brush their teeth, or at least chase it with a glass of water. This drink is refreshing and surprisingly healthy.
If your kids can’t get enough popsicles, here are five healthy, low sugar alternatives to the standard sugary store-bought treat.
Here are some great summer meal and side dish ideas:
- Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad – This pasta salad is healthy, hearty, and tangy. It’s satisfying on its own, and the leftovers will taste great the next day. It’s a great cold food item for barbecues, and it avoids excess fats and sugars. It’s flavorful but mild, so it’s sure to be a hit with kids. Plus, you can substitute fun shaped pasta to make it even more appealing.
- Zesty Taco Salad – This taco salad is simple and healthy. Beans, greens, tomatoes, chives, some tortilla chips, and lean ground beef or ground turkey. The recipe’s author says the salty crumbled cotija cheese is her favorite part of the recipe.
- Grilled Hot Dog Skewers and Creamy Avocado Dip – Kids love hot dogs. But the real secret is that most adults do, too. This recipe provides something I’d never thought of– a way to make hot dogs a little more exciting, a little classier, a lot healthier, and even more fun to eat. The avocado dip adds a rich, creamy element. You can also add your kids’ favorite veggies to the skewers.
- Saucy Porcupine Meatballs – These meatballs are made with rice, which starts to poke out of them as they cook. That makes them look like spiky little hedgehogs, which is sure to be a fun novelty for your kids.
- Mini Bow Ties with Bacon and Peas – From the recipe’s author: “Finishing your peas and carrots is exponentially more exciting when bacon is involved. In fact, almost every dish is more exciting when bacon comes to play, so feel free to swap your family’s favorite veggies into this versatile pasta.”
- Egg and Toast Cups – Looking for a variation on your standard breakfast? These are small, healthy, and fun. The recipe calls for tomato, egg, bacon,a nd chives, but there’s no reason you can’t add spinach or avocado.
- Turkey, Apple, and Swiss Melt – A simple twisted on the classic grilled ham and cheese. The apple adds an element of sweetness that kids love, plus it helps them meet their daily fruit and fiber needs.
- Rosemary Potatoes – You can make these delicious rosemary potatoes in the microwave, so they’re basically a perfect go-to summer side dish.
- Veggie Stuffed Pizza Twists – We all love pizza, but it’s not exactly the healthiest food option available. This recipe gives kids (and adults, let’s be honest) a fun way to eat their vegetables. It’s a whole wheat pizza crust stuffed with veggies and cheese, with pizza sauce for dipping. It tastes like pizza presented in a new way, but it’s actually good for you. What more can you ask for?
If you want some more ideas for quick lunches and snacks, Super Healthy Kids has some excellent ideas for healthy wraps. You can find the list here.
Summer doesn’t have to be a disaster for your child’s oral health. If you make an effort to stick to healthy recipes, involve your kids in the process, and schedule regular dental checkups, your whole family can be cavity-free.
Take it from a pediatric dental office in Mt. Pleasant– a little bit of planning and a lot of good, home cooked meals go a long way.
Do you have any other great summer recipes kids love? Email them over to us and we may just share them on our social media!
~ Dr. Randy