I don’t know about you, but my kids are struggling to eat at the moment and have completely lost their appetites because its so bloody hot. I know we shouldn’t complain about the weather, because its not like we EVER get much of a summer in the UK, but, phew, a few days recently have been unbearable! Several of my friends with young children have said their kids are the same – lethargic due to the heat, hungry and ratty, but then having no appetite at mealtimes.
Got to admit, I feel the same in the heat too. The last place I want to be on a sunny day is stuck in the kitchen cooking for hours on end. It’s all too easy to rely on mid afternoon ice creams to fill little tummies when they’ve hardly eaten all day (*guilty as charged – this was me on the school run earlier this week when it was 30 degrees!) but, in theory, if we offer up simple, nutritious and tasty food regularly throughout the day, then hopefully we can tempt little appetites to return and we can eat a little smarter too.
So here’s a few tips on getting kids to eat in the heat, and recipes that may be useful over the summer, which hopefully will be a long, sunny and glorious one, wherever you are in the World.
Water works – even if the kids are not eating much in the way of food over the summertime, its important to make sure they are drinking enough water. I’m constantly nagging my eldest to drink, but the younger two would guzzle all day if I let them. Get the kids involved in making fruity flavoured waters by adding their favourite sliced fruits into a water dispenser for them to help themselves to all day long. Mine like to add sliced citrus fruits; oranges, lemons and limes, along with pomegranate seeds and mint leaves. Cucumber slices work well too, as do berries. If you scrunch your eyes up tight enough in the bright sunshine, it could almost pass for a glass of sangria!
Go big at breakfast time – my kids always wake up ‘starving’ over the summer, often because they didn’t eat enough the previous day. Also, they grow by like an inch a day in the summer holidays, I swear. Before the day gets too hot and busy, I try to shovel as much nutritious food into them as possible. I make sure breakfast is a bit of a feast and usually they’ll happily put away a bowl of porridge with banana and jam stirred through and nuts on top, some fruit (current favourites are kiwi and nectarine) and will then move on to toast or pancakes. Lots of fibre and carbs from the oats to keep them going all morning, protein and healthy fats from the nuts, and potassium, folate and vitamins from the fruit. My kids never really fancy eggs much first thing, but adding some more protein, in the form of eggs or Greek yoghurt would make an even more balanced breakfast to power them on through the day.
Try my banana and oat pancakes with fruit and jam on top, or sweet potato porridge if you want to encourage your kids to take on more fuel at breakfast time – both great options for filling hungry tummies with super tasty nutritious food. If they are more into toast in the mornings, this dairy and gluten free seedy loaf takes a few minutes to pull together the night before, then 40 minutes baking, and it’s ready to slice and toast in the morning. Full of seeds and ground almonds, its delivers on taste and provides lots of slow release energy, particularly if spread thickly with my chia seed jam or some no added sugar peanut butter, or both. Breakfast of dreams!
Blend it up – all kids love a smoothie, and they are a great way to get fruit, vegetables and calcium into their tums. I start with a milk base, usually almond milk, but any milk is fine, as is water, then add in banana, avocado (makes a creamy texture with lots of nutritional benefits and healthy fats), spinach (great way to get extra greens into them without them noticing), then whatever fruit we’ve got to hand. My kids love any type of berries in there and mango is another favourite too. We sometimes add in Greek yoghurt, peanut butter or a tablespoon of chia seeds for an extra protein boost. Blitz in a processor or smoothie maker and you’ve got a great mini meal for them, packed full of goodness. Smoothies are another great breakfast option, particularly if mornings are rushed as it can be made the night before, then grabbed from the fridge as you pile out of the house. If you’ve got any leftover smoothie mix, you can freeze it in lollipop moulds for a frozen treat for those muggy summer evenings.
Love your leftovers – Nobody wants to be stuck in the kitchen during the summer if they can help it, so I’m a big fan of cooking once and eating twice, or three times – leftovers are the way to go! I always make a few extra portions of our favourite dinners so we’ve got tempting tubs of leftovers in the fridge for the following few days. That way, if the kids suddenly find their appetites, I’ve always got something ready for them. Plus, my kids love a buffet style meal; random plates of leftover bits and bobs that they can pick away at, rather than a full plate of dinner in front of them. They’ll often eat more if they can have a bit of this from one plate and a bit of that from another. And if its all nutrient rich food, with plenty of fruit, veg, lean proteins and slow release carbs, then whatever they choose to eat from the selection will be a great meal.
Their ultimate star leftover dinner is cold pizza slices, but several of my healthier favourite recipes work really well as leftovers too! This lentil bake is easy to make and works just as well cold from the fridge as it does hot from the oven. And there’s something special about leftover curry too, right? This aubergine and sweet potato one is kid friendly, really tasty eaten cold and packed full of vegetables, fibre and protein. Try serving cold leftovers with mini naan breads and some dips, for a great way to encourage the kids to fill up on good stuff.
Snack smart – Summer is basically one long succession of snacks in our house, and I try to keep it as fresh and healthy as possible. Fruit is the snack king – we put away an astonishing amount, and we’re all big nut and nut butter fans. Apple slices dipped in peanut butter and pear slices dipped in almond butter are winning combinations. I have peppers, carrots and cucumbers chopped in the fridge ready to dip into a pot of hummus, or some smashed avocado, which makes a great healthy and filling snack. Handfuls of cherry tomatoes, with chunks of cheese or a hardboiled egg is a favourite too. Breadsticks, oatcakes and rice cakes are always in the cupboards, and the older two are really enjoying pre packaged seed shots at snack time (just watch the packets, as some have added sugar). If the kids are managing to get a few healthy snacks down them, with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, protein and healthy fats from the nuts, seeds, hummus and avocado, then I can relax a little more about what they eat at mealtimes.
There are several snacks that I like to bake for the kids, which are easy and quick to pull together, and apart from the odd chocolate chip, are added sugar free, so perfect for filling hungry tummies over the long summer break. These oaty chickpea crackers are great to dip in hummus with some chopped veggies, and these quinoa bars are a tasty and fruity flapjack alternative, great for grabbing as you head out of the door, and perfect to pack up for picnics too.
Speedy pasta – when kids are struggling to eat in the heat, a good tactic is to give them food that’s familiar, easy for you to prepare, and easy for them to eat. Pasta ticks all the boxes! Whilst ready made jars of sauce are handy, its possible to make your own sauces that are just as tasty in the time it takes the pasta to cook. 20 minutes tops, and you can have a meal on the table, or packed up in tupperware if you are dining al fresco in the park, which you can cram lots of vegetables into, and then everyone can get back to enjoying the sunshine.
My spinach and avocado pasta pesto is my go to quick and easy pasta meal, and I serve it up to the kids at least once a week. Add in some frozen peas and sweetcorn (chuck them into the pan to cook for the final two minutes with the pasta) and some cherry tomatoes and sliced peppers on the side and you’ve got 6 different vegetables in one tasty plate of kid friendly pasta.
Tomato based sauces are just as quick and easy. Chopped onions and garlic in a pan with olive oil over a medium heat for a few minutes, then add in mushrooms, peppers, courgettes and aubergines (or whatever veg you’ve got in the fridge that the kids will eat), a tin of tomatoes and a stock cube, and you’ve got a delicious veggie packed sauce that will be ready as soon as your pasta is cooked. If your kids are veggie, try adding some canned mixed beans in water for a protein kick, or some sliced ready cooked sausage or chicken if they love their meat. Add a generous handful of grated cheese to the top and the kids will dive in. Both of these pasta dishes are great served cold the next day too, so make an extra couple of portions and tomorrow’s lunch is sorted. You’re welcome!
Picnic – who doesn’t love a picnic? All those tasty tubs of food, dippy bits and bobs and a few sweet treats thrown in for good measure. And picnics definitely suit kids’ preferred way of eating, in that they can come and grab a sandwich before having a run around the park, then head back for some crackers and a piece of fruit, before heading off again, and so the day goes on. Little and often as a style of eating suits kids well, especially in the heat. My picnic essentials for the kids are; sandwiches that I know they’ll enjoy (cheese and pickle is the current obsession in my house), crisps, a ton of chopped veggies and hummus, fruit, and then a few of my homemade treats.
These cauli cheese bites are like mini quiches, which are essential to a British picnic in my opinion. I like to add in a tub of mango salsa (leave out the chilli if you are hoping to get the kids to eat some!) and some homemade guacamole, with plenty of tortilla chips to dip. Make your own tortilla chips by frying wholemeal tortillas in a little spray oil, then breaking them up into crispy chunks. For a sweet treat which still packs a nutritional punch, my avocado and banana choc chip muffins are a winner. I served these up to my vegetable phob of a nephew this past weekend who HATES avocado, and he declared them delicious!
I hope these tips and recipe ideas have given you inspiration for the upcoming summer break and that you and your kids love to eat them as much as me and mine do! Here’s to a long, beautiful summer, with lots of tasty food and drink. Cheers!