Make Healthy Eating a Part of Your Back to School Routine

Nutrition Blog_Healthy LunchIt’s back to school time again… Yay! Perhaps this thought leaves a few of you with sad faces but most parents and kids alike look forward to the opportunities a new school year brings and the comfort and security of getting back into a routine.

Front and center in any families routine is eating. Eating together as a family and choosing nutritious foods for meals and snacks is the cornerstone for healthy, well-adjusted kids. What you feed your children today will be the same foods they choose as adults. And if you’ve ever dieted, and who hasn’t, you know that changing long standing eating habits is not an easy task. What better gift to give your kids than the gift of healthy habits they’ll have for a lifetime.

The tips below will help you engage your children in the process of good eating and ensure your household is a healthy one for this back to school season and beyond:

  • Talk to your kids in a positive way about why diet is important. Assess their current eating habits and together create a plan for gradual improvement. For example, a small change could be reducing sugary beverages from daily to twice a week or eating one piece of fruit a day. Check in with them regularly to see how their day went. Your attention will let them know their eating is important and your praise will be rewarding. A sure way to teach kids to eat well is to model it for them.
  • Eat foods close to nature instead of packaged, highly processed foods and snacks. If a products ingredient list is long and full of items you can’t pronounce, replace it with a more natural choice. Close to nature foods are usually higher in fiber and water so they are satisfying and filling. They’re also packed with powerful nutrition’s, like phytochemicals that help fight illness.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time so there’s less chance of grabbing fast foods when schedules get hectic. The cook once and eat it twice (or freeze) rule will save time. Include your kids in the planning and some of the preparation of meals. Include plenty of fun finger foods. For a fun, nutrition packed meal or snack, check out the recipe below to Make-Your-Own Nachos!
  • Eat at home more often. It’s a well known fact that those who eat more meals at home (including packing your own lunch), are better able to manage their weight. It saves money too!
  • Don’t force healthy food (or any food). Even the “try one bite” tactic is not useful and may cause more resistance. It may take up to 10 introductions of a food to gain acceptance. Just keep offering healthy choices (and eating them yourself) and sooner or later it will take hold. For picky eaters or under eaters, a good multi-vitamin may be a good plan.
  • Power up activity. Encourage your child to be physically active and “play” for one hour per day. If time is limited, have short 15 minutes bursts of activity. Moderate to vigorous activity not only contributes to weight loss but it enhances overall physical and mental health.
  • Power down e-time and TV time. Screen time is known to be a risk factor for weight gain in adults and kids. One reference reports that 8-18 year olds spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media (cell phones included). This sedentary routine in combination with the intake of high calorie, poor nutritionally quality foods are contributing to children getting adult diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and even heartburn.
    If your child is overweight, focus attention on ways to be more active and less on what foods they should avoid. Minimize the attention on the scale and instead focus on positive healthy behaviors such as eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water and daily activity.
  • Stock your pantry and frig with healthy foods and ingredients so you’ll always be able to whip up a quick healthy dinner or snack.
  • Plan for a healthy after school snack, when kids are most hungry. Keep healthy snacks in a special place where the kids can reach or help you prepare. Snack items such as whole wheat crackers, string cheese, peanut butter, unsweetened fruit cups, low fat yogurt, unsalted nuts and a bowl of fresh fruit and baggies of washed and cut up veggies in the crisper.

Getting into a routine takes time so be patient with yourself and your children. Small steps repeated day after day will lead to amazing changes in your family’s health and well being.

Make-Your-Own Nachos

Looking for a healthy after school snack to please your hungry kids and teens? Make-Your-Own Nachos are a quick and easy treat and are a healthy alternative to high fat and sugar loaded snacks. Even the pickiest eater can create a version they’ll enjoy. And, they’re so fresh and tasty, they’ll never suspect they’re packed with health promoting nutrients.

1. Set out a large bowl of reduced-fat (or baked) corn tortilla chips.

2. Place some or all of the following ingredients in bowls on a table or counter (you can prepare most of the items the day before and have them ready in the frig):

  • refried beans
  • drained black beans
  • grated reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • grated zucchini, carrots or other vegetables
  • cooked corn
  • avocado chunks
  • chopped romaine lettuce or fresh baby spinach leaves
  • diced tomatoes
  • salsa
  • nonfat plain yogurt or low-fat sour cream.

3. Let everyone assemble their own nacho plate.

Recipe from 24 Carrot Press, Connie Evers, MS, RD.