By Carrie Brown Reilly

As a teacher and certified nutritional therapy practitioner (NTP), I get to spend summer vacation at home with my two school-age children. They get to spend the summer with some super yummy eats, now that I have more time to spend in the kitchen and at local farmers markets. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it can actually get pretty hot during the height of summer. To avoid any meltdowns that higher temperatures can bring, to keep things cool, I try to establish some sort of rhythm around meal times and sleep schedules.

Priority No. 1 for me is watching out for the sugar highs and lows that can lead to crazy-making behavior. I know that having a proper balance of blood sugar levels is one of the body’s top priorities, and it will do whatever is necessary to get blood sugar back in balance. This comes before almost all other biological functions. Still, the consumption of sugar has risen from about 10 pounds per person in 1821 to 180 pounds per person today! It is a documented addictive substance that can lead to family members literally screaming for more, and it has put many of our children at higher risk for obesity and diabetes. We really have to be on the lookout, too, because sugar goes by many names and hides out in 80 percent of the processed foods on supermarket shelves. To check for the amount of sugar in a product just read the back of the label, find the grams of sugar, and divide by four to get the number of teaspoons in a serving. (The World Health Organization recommends just 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day.)

I use the cool, early morning or late evening hours to strategize and prep an entire day of eating. Often, I try to put a meal in the slow cooker or a marinade in the refrigerator for the grill. When I meal-plan in peace and quiet, and when I am not “hangry,” I avoid the pitfalls of poor decision-making later in the day that can lead to a bowl of cold cereal for dinner. (Incidentally, once you get used to it, enchiladas are a much better breakfast option than cereal or sugary waffles, and will sustain your natural energy longer throughout the day.) I also try to use one day a week for preparing batches of ingredients that can be ready for me as needed.

Whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner, a meal for me generally consists of 40 percent carbohydrates that come from low-sugar vegetables, raw or lightly cooked; 30 percent protein; and 30 percent healthy fats. I eat one or two pieces of fresh fruit by itself on an empty stomach. Exact ratios depend on bio-individuality, stage of life, and time of year. I usually allow for lunch to be eaten picnic-style, but dinner is time to wind down at home. I also try for three meals a day, with an interval of 2-3 hours of rest-and-digest time between. Too much snacking and refined grain products can lead to elevated glucose levels, and while there is sugar to burn, my body won’t tap into those fat stores for energy—which can make getting into a swimsuit not fun. And I skip the sugary drinks, opting for plenty of water or herbal tea.