While the kids might be on vacation, the care and feeding of them is a never-ending job. Those long hot summer days, whether filled with a flurry of activity or lazy relaxation, require plenty of convenient, easy-to-eat, cooling foods to keep your crew energized, happy and hydrated. Here are some of my favorite foods to cool down and nourish my busy, sweaty kids.
Fresh, in-season fruit is the perfect ready-to-go food. Especially whole fruits, which need nothing more than a quick rinse (and probably a napkin if they’re as ripe and juicy as they should be!). Their refreshing goodness is one of the things that make them such a wonderful choice in summer, providing warm, growing bodies with nutrients as well as hydration. At my house, stone fruits (named for their pit) are some of the most coveted: apricots, peaches, plums, pluots, nectarines and cherries.
Growing up, there was a prolific plum tree in my yard, producing buckets of dark-skinned beauties and, in my mind, summer isn’t complete until you have plum juice running down to your elbows. We let fruit ripen on the counter, then store it in containers in the fridge so it’s chilled and ready-to-eat. Every summer I try to have my kids taste as many varieties as I can, always looking for the perfect peach or plum, and happily finding it over and over. Also, don’t forget those sweet jewels of summer: grapes and berries. Easy for little fingers to grab, while older ones eat them by the handfuls, nature’s candy tends to get sweeter and better as the temperature gets hotter and hotter.
Another array of choices and mouth-watering hydration options come to us in their own spherical package — melons. Go beyond the classic cantaloupe and try new varieties. I like to look for the ones with a strong scent that feel heavy for their size, thereby ensuring juiciness. I also like to seek out varieties with unusual names.
Unsure which kind of melon to choose? I always ask a produce team member for a sample or for what they recommend — they always seem to know which ones are the sweetest and most delicious. And, of course, don’t forget watermelons. With over 90% of their weight from water, not only are these hot weather essentials super nourishing and hydrating, but they also come in an assortment of varieties, sizes and even colors. My kids eat watermelon all summer long and still beg for more.
While fruit is the star of summer in my mind, summer vegetables are not to be missed : cucumber, summer squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots and even radishes (I recommend the not too spicy ones for kids). Offer these to your kids whole and watch them polish off a tomato like it’s a peach (napkins definitely recommended). Or slice them up into dipping shapes to pair with a dip such as a Creamy Cucumber Dip, homeade hummus or black bean hummus, salsa (mind the spice!), or guacamole. Not only are these easy enough to make that your kids can help, but some of these recipes already have veggies in them too.
Alongside a favorite dip is a great way to introduce and welcome new kinds of vegetables too. Even greens and lettuces can show up. Feel free to give them new names too. When my son convinced himself that he didn’t like lettuce, he soon found “Romaine crunchies” making a regular appearance on his plate. And guess what? He liked them!
What are some of your family’s summer seasonal favorites for healthy snacking?