OBESITY IS CHRONIC among all American children, not just those in the 49th state, but it still shocks me - 1 in 3 kids begin school overweight. The contributing factors are many - too much screen time, more working parents, lack of urban planning etc. Even our food is less healthy.
Summer break has arrived in Alaska, depositing thousands of children and their families in the swirling, whirling world of the midnight sun, chock-full of outdoor activities, including those of the food-related kind.
Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, Ester, AK:
Trying a carrot fresh from the soil!
When our family travels, no matter where we travel, mealtime is often a highlight of the day. Whether we’re exploring a new restaurant or packing a picnic dinner for a mountain trail, it’s fun to share breakfast, lunch or dinner someplace different. But how healthy, really, are our choices? Oh, I try to stick to my guns for the majority of our travel time, insisting upon fruit and/or veggies at every meal, but frankly, after a few days, I become rather lax about this rule. Apple pie for breakfast? Why not. Dr. Pepper with lunch and dinner? Okay.
I’ve made a promise to myself - this summer will be different. Alaska is flush with healthy food choices, both of the restaurant and farm variety. Maybe, just maybe, if we involve our timid eater (did I mention I am raising the World’s Pickiest?), our mealtime outcomes will be a bit more on the healthy side of things.
What’s our strategy? Education is a strong factor in enticing our son to pick healthy menu items instead of just being picky. Knowing where a certain food originates is part of the plan. We adore Calypso Farm and Ecology Center near Fairbanks, where the whole family can participate in learning about food, eating, and growing a garden of healthy foods. Milk a goat, pick a carrot, or make a pizza in their wood-fired oven, all while receiving practical advice from an extremely dedicated staff and volunteer force. Find the farm in the town of Ester, a short drive from Fairbanks, and consider attending their annual Open House, July 22.
Shopping for food is important, too. We generally tend to eat breakfast and lunch in our cabin, hotel room, or on the road, noshing on foods we’ve found at local farmers’ markets or the grocery store. Alaska has so many outdoor markets, in just about every community of the state, and we love to wander the grounds, listen to music, and become a temporary part of a town’s fabric. The Alaska Farmers Market Association is a coalition of farmers and markets around the state, offering a big list of those to visit. Buy some local produce, bread, jam, and cheese, then enjoy your own Alaska picnic. Life doesn’t get much simpler, or better, than that.
Exercising is key to a healthy appetite, too, we’ve found. A brisk walk, bike ride, or kayak paddle before mealtime can be just the thing to make young tummies growl with hunger, resulting in kids who are more inclined to eat the good stuff. If eating out, I usually order an “appetizer” plate of raw veggies and dip before our main course, and with good results, since my kiddo is starving after a full day of Alaska fun.
Eating together is a precious time of day, one that should provide not only physical sustenance, but emotional nutrition, too. Why not make it a time of discovery and discussion, while on the road this summer?
Follow the Kirkland family’s adventures at AKontheGO.com.