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Summer snacks can be healthy as well as tasty

Health & Fitness Columnist

Well, believe it or not summer is here. I am sure you are asking yourself, how in the world did June get here so quickly? Over the next few months I am going to write about all the fresh, yummy and healthy produce that is available to us in Southwest Georgia over the summer (and fall and spring, too).

Summer is a great time to try new recipes loaded with summer fruits and veggies. Everything is so fresh and tastes delicious this time of the year. Plus, we seem to have a few extra minutes on our hands in the summer months and the kids are around to help out with the cooking and food preparation.

Like I have mentioned in previous columns, cooking with your kids is an excellent idea. It not only gives you precious time with your kids, but educates them on healthy eating and what is involved in preparing a nutritious meal for the family. Living in Southwest Georgia, we have plenty of fresh produce at our doorstep all year long. However, summer brings a plethora of different fruits and vegetables that allow us to experiment and create healthy and nutritious dishes for all to enjoy.

The following website gives you specific information on what produce is available during specific times of the year in Georgia:

http://www.gfb.org/commodities/cfm/harvest_calendar.html

Looking at this information, you will see that we are lucky to live in Georgia and have all of these fresh fruits and vegetables available. Summer is perfect for strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, raspberries, blackberries, cherries and, of course, the famous Georgia peach. All of these fruits just picked and cut up make a perfect fruit salad. But there are so many other things (healthy) that can be done with fresh fruit.

One of my favorite and healthiest is a fruit smoothie. Fruit smoothies are not only easy to do, but can be custom made to each person’s taste and likes. A quick and easy recipe that can be made any way you like it: 1 banana, 1 cup of fruit (any fruit that you like; blueberries, strawberries, peaches), ½ cup plain low-fat yogurt and ½ cup milk. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. This makes a single serving, so if you want more than one serving you need to increase the amounts.

If you are do not like yogurt, you can make a smoothie without the yogurt: 1 banana, 2 cups of fruit (any fruit you like), 2 cups ice and 1 cup of juice (usually apple or pineapple) and blend until smooth.

If you want to add some protein to your smoothie, peanut butter is an excellent source and great addition. Simply prepare your smoothie with the fruits you like and add about 2 tablespoons of peanut butter before you blend it. A favorite recipe of ours is: 2 cups plain yogurt, 2 bananas, 2 cups strawberries, 2 tablespoons honey and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.

Smoothies give kids the opportunity to decide for themselves what fruits they want to include and they also are quick and easy to prepare for any age. Researchers have said for years that if kids are involved in deciding what is being made and in preparing it, they are more likely to eat it.

What better way to get your kids involved then making smoothies and providing them with a healthy and nutritious breakfast or quick snack?

As you can see, there are many ways to prepare fruit smoothies; you can be creative and incorporate any fruits you happen to have at home or pick up at the local grocery store or farm stand. Enjoy creating not only memories with your children, but quick and healthy snacks.

Dr. Kirsten Lupinski is an assistant professor at Albany State University in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department. She has a B.S. in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina, an M.S. in Health Education from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate in Education from the University of Cincinnati. She has worked in the health education field in various capacities (corporate health, community health, college health and wellness and university education) for more than 15 years. She and her husband have three young children (5-year-old twin sons and a 2-year-old daughter).