A whole slew of factors can conspire to make our healthy eating habits fall off the mark in the summer: hotter weather makes us reach for sugary beverages and frozen treats, barbecues and social gatherings (where we let ourselves off the hook with alcohol and junk food) abound, and longer days can lead to more opportunities for mindless snacking. If your family, like mine, could use a reminder going into the season of just how many easy, homemade snack, treat, and beverage options we have in the summer, then this is it! I’ve gathered up many of my favorite recipes so that you can make the most of this abundant time of year, without spending all your time in the kitchen.
Fresh produce abounds in the summertime—it’s the easiest time of year to eat a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables. Take advantage of your local farmer’s market or even your backyard garden to make the most of the opportunity to get your nutrients from whole, in-season foods!
Fruit is a healthy snack even if you don’t doctor it up, but my kids get way more excited if we make it just a bit more interesting. I will use my spiralizer and a sprinkle of cinnamon to make apples more appealing, or take chunks of diced fruits and put them on a skewer. (Anything is better on a stick!) I love to chop up some mint and put it in a bowl with diced watermelon—just out of the fridge, this is one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations of summer. My kids also love sliced bananas and apples with nut butter, as well as cucumber and watermelon sandwiches. Keep a bowl of fresh fruits and vegetables that are clean and ready to eat on the kitchen table or front and center in the refrigerator so that the kids can reach it.
Having portable snacks on hand is critical in the summer when we are vacationing or just schlepping from day camp to play dates and everything in between. I keep batches of my grain-free granola bars and these homemade Lara bars around just about all the time. Trail mix, homemade fruit snacks, and these grain-free power balls are also regular hits in our on-the-go rotation, as are kale chips and beef (or wild game) jerky.
Making a batch of fresh pesto with cilantro and oregano or basil and keeping it in the fridge means I’m finding excuses to spread it on everything—which is great, since it’s so fresh-tasting and good for gut health. I also love to pre-bake large batches of bacon on parchment paper in the oven and then keep it in the fridge. Spread a little guacamole on a slice of bacon and you’ve got a savory whole food snack that feels indulgent. Carrots, celery, cucumbers, and bell peppers also make great vehicles for guacamole or hummus. Finally, I don’t show up to a barbecue without my kid-friendly kale salad. I never fail to get requests for the recipe!
You don’t need fancy appliances to make delicious cold treats that stack up to what you’ll find in the freezer aisle. Ice cube trays are totally sufficient, and if you want to up your game you can invest in some special molds for popsicles. One of the simplest frozen treats I love is adding whole or blended berries to my ice cube trays to pop into my water in the summer to add color and flavor.
Your options expand even further when you incorporate a high powered blender! While not technically frozen, this avocado chocolate pudding makes for a delicious dessert. We also love making ice cream with coconut milk and frozen berries in our Vitamix. (Another riff on that combination: fresh berries and coconut milk whipped cream.) Need more whole food ice cream flavors? Try banana or chocolate.
If you do go down the popsicle mold rabbit hole like our family has, start with these fudge bars or a batch of greensicles—a great way to make sure my kids are getting leafy greens in addition to fruits.
Whether incorporating smoothies as meal replacements or stopping by the lemonade stand on the corner, there’s no end to the creativity you can have with cold beverages in the hot weather. As far as smoothies, my kiddos love this green smoothie and sometimes we mix it up with this chocolate version. There are so many fresh, mouth-watering options for lemonade—just say no to store-bought mixes! Strawberry and watermelon mint are great ways to mix up the official beverage of summertime. Finally, give chia fresca a try. If you’re new to chia, it might take some getting used to, but I guarantee you’ll be a convert after trying this recipe!
I hope this list of recipes and ideas inspires your family to continue your healthy eating habits all summer long.
Let’s chat on social: what’s your go-to recipe for summer snacking, or your perennial barbecue hit? I want to hear about it!
Sarah Kolman is the mom of three boys, a Registered Nurse, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and has a master's degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy. Her private practice as a health coach blends her experience and career as a nurse with her passion for nutrition and holistic wellness. She is the author of Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family's Whole Health in a Busy World.