This afternoon my eldest breaks up from school. I’m excited for the holidays but also a little fearful dare I admit! I’m fortunate enough to be able to take some time off over the summer to take care of the children but with it I know will come some inevitable food related challenges…

Here are I predict my potential challenges and opportunities over the holidays with top tips on how to keep sane and nutritious at the same time!

Managing the snack attack 

Children seem to feel a new sense of digestive inspiration with more frequent access to the kitchen – what delights are behind those doors and how do I play my cards right to get at them?!

Stock up on healthy snacks. Our favourites are cheesy oatcakes, mini cheese portions, bread sticks, breakfast cereals and brioche. As well as plenty of fruit of course.

If their legs seem even hollower than usual combine fruit or carby snacks with some protein to fill them up for longer. Cheese and apple pieces, oatcakes and peanut butter, carrot sticks and houmous for example. Then you can be confident when they ask for another snack 10 minutes later it’s a boredom thing and you need to whip out your magic tricks instead.

Time for baking? – Or maybe not?!

I enjoy quality time with my children but I’m still not convinced cooking together always equals that. There’s sugar everywhere, flour everywhere, fights over which colour spoon to stir the mixture with, whose turn it is and by the end of it I have more to clear up and need some nurofen!

My plan instead is to involve them more in the planning and preparation of their own meals – chopping their fruit, serving their yoghurt, selecting the type of pasta and putting it in the pan, choosing one meal of the week, that kind of thing.

An opportunity to try new things?

Each glorious day of the summer holidays is a blank canvas to create havoc in the home but also originality in the kitchen.

I’m not suggesting one skips off to the supermarket with children in tow to peruse the aisles and carefully select new ingredients and produce to sample. Can’t believe that would go well – but we often get stuck in a routine rut during term time and with perhaps more relaxed schedules there may be the chance to dust off the recipe books and try something new once a week. Or even let someone else inspire you via a delivery service such as a chophealthy box.

If there are play dates planned take 5 minutes to converse with other parents on their top 5 dishes – I’ve added a few to my repertoire as a result of this.

Agreeing a treat strategy

Consider being upfront at the start of the day about opportunities for treats to avoid lots of tiresome negotiations later on in the day when you’re more likely to cave for sanity reasons. When my daughter relayed negotiations with Daddy in which he had offered either juice but no popular dried fruit snack in the shape of a worm or consumption of said worm but only with water I could have wept with joy. She very earnestly stated it was not possible to have both juice and a dried fruit worm because that wouldn’t be good. I’ll make a dietitian out of her yet! I honestly believe if you set the boundaries you’re happy with (with hopefully half a nod at the public health recommendations to keep free sugar intakes to 5 cubes (19g) per day for 4-6 year olds and 6 cubes a day (24g) for 7-10 year olds) then children will accept this.

We don’t demonise sugar is our household and yes it is a shame that the salted caramel Haagan Daaz is not suitable for children (ssshhhh). Consider keeping treats available in the house to a minimum and instead save them up for when you’re out and about.

And what about me and you?

Many parents abandon their own health aims over the holidays as every last inch of brain space is taken up with the children but I urge you to rank yourself at least on a par with everyone else. You may not be achieving weight loss or be following your low fodmap diet as closely as you should but taking the attitude that you do matter too will hopefully help to keep things on track a little.

Happy holidays everyone!!