It’s back-to-school time, which always seems like a fresh start. One of my goals this school year is to get my kids (and their parents!) to adopt better eating habits. It turns out I'm not alone in this goal. August is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Kids Eat Right Month — which makes it the perfect time to get our whole family focused on eating well.
It's a worthy goal, says Amy Kimberlain, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Miami, Fla., and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“One of the most important things parents can do for their children is to teach them the importance of eating a healthy diet and maintaining an active lifestyle,” she said.
1. Bring your kids to the store
Get your kids involved in grocery shopping. “Bring your kids shopping and have them help you select colorful fruits and vegetables at the supermarket,” Kimberlain said. Have them help you find ingredients for specific recipes, and let them pick out a few things they want to try -- as long as they're healthy options!
2. Try new foods
What foods or ingredients haven’t you tried yet? Ask your kids what they have always wanted to taste, and work it into a healthy meal. Or ask the children to choose a country and create a meal based on that. You may wind up finding new family favorites as a result of the creativity!
3. Think differently
Used to making fried chicken? Adopt a healthier new method — grilling, for example — to make a family favorite in a new way. Typically serve noodles with a meal? Try substituting a healthier whole grain or make veggie noodles instead. Find new ways to add vegetables to your favorite recipes.
4. Cook and eat together
It may seem like a chore to the kids, but once you give them responsibility in the kitchen, they might enjoy preparing a meal together. And then eat it together!
“Eat as a family whenever possible,” Kimberlain said.
5. Plate your food
Got a teen who loves sharing on social? Let your teen post pics of your healthy creations on social media. Or start a family blog about your food adventures and let them contribute by adding comments on what they liked — and didn't like! — during a meal. That kind of active involvement can spark conversations and can encourage your kids to embrace healthy eating.
6. Educate and model good behaviors
Read labels and explain different aspects of nutrition to your kids. Explain why healthy eating matters and how different foods help their bodies tackle all the things they love to do.
7. Ask for help!
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a local dietitian or nutritionist for help. Some dietitians will actually come to your home (typically for a fee!) and involve the whole family in a discussion about coming up with healthier food choices. If you don’t think your kids will listen to you, this may be just what you need to do in order to support the whole family in eating a little — or a lot — better.
Kristen Fischer is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Central Jersey Shore.
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