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Summer Wellness Confessions - And Plans to Execute!


As a mother with a school-aged child, I was filled with fear in the pit of my stomach. School was letting out for the summer and I was reminded of the chaos that ensued in the last month of summer last year. I had joined my mother friends in counting the days down until the little “balls of energy” would be back in school. You see, I nicknamed my daughter the “Texas Tornado” very early in her life because she has the capacity to pull out every craft, coloring book and toy in less than 10 minutes flat.  (I am sure you can relate, many of our kids are TTs!) And I have to admit, my private practice was pretty busy at that time and following through on a consistent schedule fell by the wayside. What can I say, I am human just like you. Although I still make a point of staying home 2 days per week to be with my 4 year old son, it takes a conscious effort to keep my work at my office. I guess it’s the struggle of most people that own their own businesses. {sigh}

Well, I have consciously squashed that fear and vow to maximize my time with both my husband and children during the summer months   Join me!  Family time must be kept a priority and when you see other things are taking precedence – re-align those priorities. After all, I love what I do, but what is it all for anyway I can't find time to spend with my own family, and also live out the wellness aspects I educate on?  I had recently done two media interviews – one with My Healthy Steps by Jokari and one with our local NBC Dallas/Fort Worth affiliate on keeping kids eating healthy through the summer months. This started me thinking about my own family challenges - getting the practical logistics down, a plan of family plan of action to staying active together and making family time a priority.   Doesn't it usually boil down to logistics?  Believe me, I can relate.

Our family at the Desert View, Grand Canyon.

I have to admit, we started this summer off very well as a family. My husband and I absolutely love the outdoors and this summer, we chose to explore the New Mexico and Arizona areas with our children. We bravely set out on a road trip with our 4 and 7 year old – and purposely gravitated toward active outdoor activities that the kids would enjoy and be able to do along with us. We visited a still-inhabited American Indian mesa where we got to see how families still live on top of a mountain with no electric or running water. The kids really loved the raft trip we did in Page, Arizona where we went down the smooth part of the Colorado River and learned about the local history. A highlight of the trip was making it out the incredible, breathtaking Grand Canyon where the kids got to work on being junior park rangers, get up and close with some tame wildlife and even do some canyon hikes. But I think my favorite part of the trip, other than the quality time spent as a family, was our 4-wheel jeep experience in Sedona, Arizona. We climbed some crazy, large rocks with an unstoppable Rubicon Jeep! The kids blew us away by climbing up submarine rock like little monkeys! All in all, it was an amazing trip where we got to challenge our bodies physically, enjoy local food flavors and maximize nutrient-rich eating.

Now that we are back from vacation, I am pumped up! Feeling invigorated by time away, morning runs, day hikes and optimized nutrition on the trip, I want to keep the momentum going with the kids. (Not to mention the book on tape my husband I were listening to in the car – A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson) As we were making the trek back, I realized that other moms and dads out there are probably wondering – how to keep the family healthy, happy and sane during the summer months. Here is what I came up with for our family during the car ride, and I hope it helps your family.

First of all -- have a plan! Again, it sounds so obvious, but we start the summer off feeling relieved that we don’t have to be crazy busy in the morning by getting the kids to school. So we savor that for a couple weeks. But then we realize that there is no plan and the kids are taking over! It’s better to start with a plan. Here are some things you can consider adding to your own customized family plan.  If there are two working parents, pay special attention to your child's daycare activities and nutrition plan - balance is key.  Plan family activities in the evenings and on the weekends.  Now, let's get that calendar out and start planning.


• Plan in family exercise/active fun. I need to hear 'family' on this myself because I love my early morning runs with my iPod -- alone. Other than sleeping, it’s really the only time I have to myself. But I have decided to let go of that during the week and take the kids out with me (but the weekend runs are still mine!!). There is a small man made lake within walking distance of our home filled with ducks and water fountains. On the days I am home with the kids, I take the kids out there to feed the ducks, play Frisbee and even run a bit with me. There is also a playground down from that lake that I take the kids to while run around the playground block. Yes, it is different than my runs by myself and my husband had to remind me to flex here (thanks, Jeff!). When I flexed, I realized that I opened myself up to some great time with the children and starting their days off active and energy expended (remember, Texas Tornado??). Hannah actually loves to run herself, and can easily make it around the lake at least one time! This running will help keep her in shape for when soccer season starts back up. Other things to consider doing as a family is camping, hiking, walking, biking, running and swimming. Even a sprinkler, water guns and slip n’ slides offer cheap ways to keep the kids outdoors and running around.  Our family looks forward to doing day hikes at local parks on the weekends!  Explore your area this summer.

Local Communities. Our public library has a family story time 2 days per week from 11:15 – 11:45. We will do our morning outdoor time, get cleaned up and head over to the library for some summer reading. Our city also has tons of outdoor events and activities that the kids and/or the family can take part of all summer long. We have decided to take part in many of them and are on our calendar.  Check your local area for free events that your family can enjoy.

Co-op. Moms of your children’s friends are looking for things for their children to do just like you. Set-up a schedule with one or two moms where you can take each other’s kids so you can get some grocery shopping done or have some much needed downtime.

Summer Camps. Hannah and I are actually scheduled to go to our church summer camp in July. I will be her cabin’s camp counselor – and this will allow us to have extra special time together. The camp also has active, outdoor things to do such as zip line, horseback riding, biking and challenge courses. Summer camps fill up fast, so hopefully you have yours booked!


Have fun with food. My free resource page on my professional website provides many websites that give great reliable nutrition information, recipes and ideas to make food production and learning fun. Involve your kids in the planning, shopping and preparation process as much as possible. Take a cooking class as a family so kids can have stress-free experiences playing with outside of meal time.

Gain back home-cooked meal momentum. Even though I am a nutrition educator, our family still falls off the wagon some weeks where we eat out a bit too much. I may have a business deadline to meet, travel to speak or overloaded with patient paperwork so we grab take out for survival. Ironically, I may be speaking on this very subject! The beginning of any season, including summer, is a great time to try new recipes and get your weekly shopping routine going again.

Keep proper hydration a priority! Kids can get dehydrated fast, so as we encourage outdoor activity, also encourage proper hydration. (see my blog post, "The Must Knows of Outdoor Hydration with Children.")

Shop Local. Local produce is typically higher in nutrient content because the distance from farm to plate is much shorter. Shop local by visiting your local farmer’s market – seek out local producer sheds. Make it a game with your kids by making a taste test worksheet. List the local produce that is there and have them taste it for the taste test. I’ve done this many times with groups of children, and you wouldn’t believe how much more likely they will try the food when it’s a “taste test.”

Pantry Clean-out. Aside from nutrition, this must be done for food safety purposes! The last time I went into my pantry, I think there was still some Easter candy lingering in there.  Oops!  What's in your pantry? Do your own assessment on your pantry and fridge – I’d say that at least 90% of foods should be what I can “always” foods – lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. Put the always foods where you can see them and make them convenient for everyone to enjoy.

Utilize the new MyPlate icon and resources. It is a great visual to start with when loading your family plates. The website still provides personalized plans and tons of resources. Get acquainted with it and then teach those principles to your kids in fun, creative ways (see my post, MyPlate: A Nutrition Educator's Perspective).

Like I always tell people, a healthy lifestyle is not perfectly linear.  It ebbs and flows.  What I love about what I do is that I am constantly reminded of healthy behaviors for my own family, at the same time, share those same practical tips with you. So - the things listed above are our calendar this summer.  How about yours? I would love to hear what your family has planned this summer that will keep everyone active and healthy. My family may take on some of your ideas. Let’s share!

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