Fuel Up for Back to School: How to Set your Family up for Success
by Danica Crouse, RDN, LD
School is back in session and during this season, families are often wanting to establish some healthy habits. Perhaps you are hoping this is the year you will convince your picky eater to eat something green or maybe you want to set a goal to have more meals at home rather than relying on drive through or carry out as often. Here are some simple ways that you can set your family up for success with heathy eating this school year.
All Hands on Deck
Get everyone in the family involved when planning and prepping for meals. Encourage input from the group when deciding on what meals you will have during the week and have them help with the grocery list and shopping. Allow your kids to choose one or two fruits and vegetables they will have for the week to include with snacks or packed lunches. Although it may take a bit more time, let your kids help with cooking and preparing meals and snacks. Kids are often more willing to eat something healthy if they have contributed to the process.
Exposure is Key
Don't be discouraged if your kids are not interested or willing to try a new, healthy food the first time it is offered. It can take many, many exposures to a new food before it may be accepted. This can be true for both adults and kids. Offer up new foods in a variety of ways and be sure to include positive and encouraging language. Although it may be easier sometimes to "sneak" healthy foods into a recipe, make sure to also offer those foods in their natural form to help your family learn to love them.
Small Steps for Big Impact
It may seem appealing to start the year off strong, but not all healthy habits need to happen overnight. Consider setting small goals or making one change at a time. Try swapping one processed snack food for a whole, fresh food item. If you typically dine out five meals during the week, replace just one with a homemade meal. These habits are more likely to stick if they happen gradually, and you will probably get less resistance from the family. Make sure you are communicating as a family about the changes you are making and the benefits of eating a healthy diet (ie better sleep, improved energy during sporting events, more focused at school, etc).
Another way that you can get more nutrients in is by having healthy snacks available at home. It may seem easier to default to the typical "kid friendly" snack foods, but healthier items can be just as convenient. Try designating a space in the pantry and refrigerator where kids (and adults!) can have access to more nutritious snack foods. In the pantry, you can have whole grain crackers, homemade or no-added-sugar trail mix, popcorn, and low sugar snack bars. In the fridge, have washed and prepared fruits and vegetables, yogurt, healthy dips like hummus or guacamole, and cheese sticks.
Whether it's your first choice for a healthy snack or your last resort when your kids are just too picky to eat their fruits and veggies, it's always a good idea to have Sweet Nothing Smoothies on hand for an after school treat that will keep both parents and kids happy.