Busy families are frustrated by the flood of changing nutrition advice, especially as they try to make sensible dietary decisions. There are a wealth of concerns when it comes to children’s eating habits. Picky eaters, eating too much junk food, and not eating enough fruits and vegetables are among those concerns. What’s a family to do? For Kids Eat Right Month, start with these easy, practical tips:
• Make mealtime family time. Try to have at least one meal a day together. Eating meals as a family can actually improve your children’s food habits since kids tend to eat more fruits, vegetables and dairy foods at meals shared with their parents.
• Get the family involved in meal planning and preparation. Your kitchen can be a learning laboratory. Give kids simple tasks to help with family food shopping, preparation and cleanup. Children are more likely to eat foods that they have helped to prepare.
• Be a good role model. Moms and dads often tell their kids to eat healthy but don’t follow the advice for themselves. Make sure you set a good example for your family. Healthy eating is a lifestyle—not a fad. It needs to be a family affair that begins at an early age.
• Try something new. Set a goal to include one new food or recipe each week. You’ll soon discover new favorites to incorporate into family menus. When you want your children to eat more fruits and vegetables, try a new or exotic variety like mangoes or tangelos. To make fruit easier to eat, serve it in bite-sized pieces with some yogurt for delicious dipping!
• Freshness and quality are key. Opt for fresh, quality products when choosing foods for your family. Fresher foods provide higher amounts of essential nutrients and taste better when they’re at their peak.
• Stash healthy snacks. Keep healthy, nutritious snacks in key places at all times— your purse, the car, your desk drawer. As you run out the door, grab a few healthy snacks – crackers and peanut butter, small boxes of cereal, fresh fruit, pretzels, or plain popcorn. You won’t be tempted to eat unhealthy options and you’ll have portable nutrition for your kids.
• Think creatively to adapt to your family's schedule. Try changing the time of your meals so you can have at least a few family meals per week. Accommodate a busy schedule by working in time for a meal. For example, have a tailgate picnic before or after a game or practice.
• Face dining out challenges head-on. Many moms feel restaurants don’t have enough variety for their entire family. This doesn’t have to be the case. Choose restaurants that allow you to mix and match food options that give you the control to create a balanced meal for you and your family.
• Be informed when dining out. Visit restaurant websites or call ahead to find out information about their menu. Some websites provide nutrition breakdowns for menu items. Use this information to help you select a restaurant and to plan meals ahead of time.
Whatever the nutritional obstacle, work together to overcome it and aim for HEALTH together as a family!