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Parents are the nutritional gatekeepers for their kids’ diets.

A new school year is a great time to add some new healthy habits for the whole family and these 5 tips can get you started.

wheat field with kids photo

It’s no secret that the health of the American population is declining. The scary part is, our eating habits are affecting our children and our future. Childhood obesity has risen from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008 according to the Center for Disease Control. The CDC’s research also tells us that adolescent obesity has risen from 5% to 18% within the same time frame. What is the cause of obesity? An excess calorie intake, meaning more energy is being consumed than is being burned off.  The good news is that we don’t have to be at a stalemate with the war on obesity. We can certainly do something about it, and now is a great time to start.

We know the school year gets busy but it is still possible to swap high sugar, high fat and high calorie options out for more nutritious foods and still have time to breathe (maybe even a couple extra breaths too !) Teach your kids by example of how to eat healthy for life and work together to improve the way you live and eat!

Here are some simple steps to nutritious eating during the school week:

  1. Shop Smart! It all starts at the grocery store, this is where you have the opportunity to open the door to nutritious foods and slam it shut on poor dietary choices. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where all of your fresh unprocessed produce, dairy, and protein live. Once you have your main staples, only go through the aisles in which you know you need something and when it comes to grains, make sure they are 100% whole grains! Look for healthy and easy meal options too, like packets of oatmeal for breakfast, or dry roasted almonds or walnuts for a nutritious and satisfying snack option. Stay away from snacks that make you want to wipe the grease off your hands after eating! That is a sure sign of an unhealthy option. Also never shop on an empty stomach to avoid tempting unhealthy foods.
     
  2. Make a Plan! Sit down with your kids and make a plan of what meals and lunches you are going to make the upcoming week. Have your kids help you pick out what is yummy from among the healthy choices you present to them. Doing this will provide a healthy meal plan that is ready to go after a busy day of work for parents and school, soccer practice,  or gymnastics. Keeping meals interactive with children will also excite them about eating!
     
  3. Get Creative! Try to find new innovative ways to pack a healthy and quick lunch for your children or even add a new spin to an old favorite. Make a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread and use a cookie cutter to make fun shapes, pack baked whole grain pita chips and a black bean salsa, send them with homemade soup in a thermos and a chunk of Great Harvest’s Whole Grain Tuscan Herb Bread , make turkey roll ups by wrapping turkey around whole wheat bread, some cream cheese, and a veggie, or even used leftovers from dinner to make a yummy sandwich like roasted turkey wedged in a whole wheat bun.
     whole wheat bread and boy photo

  4. BreakFAST! Breakfast is nothing to brush off because this is the meal that will power your child through the day. It may be a while before they get to snack time or lunch break and it is important that you keep them nourished so they can focus in class and have the energy to have fun with friends. Make oatmeal fun by changing it up. It can be as simple as adding peanut butter and jelly to it one day, then cinnamon and apples the next. Blend up a smoothie and put it in a go cup so they can drink it on the bus, or even make a parfait with whole grain granola, yogurt, and berries.
     
  5. Snack right! It’s especially important for growing and active bodies to have healthy nutrient dense snacks available for an energy boost after the school bell rings and before practice, clubs, or play time begins. Ants on a Log (a personal favorite of mine growing up) which is celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins, sliced up fruit, or trail mix made with anything from popcorn, nuts, dried berries, or pretzels are all easy and nourishing snacks to give your little one before they start running around.

Check out my next blog for additional tips on how to keep it healthy during the school year!

What are your favorite meal or snack ideas?

 

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Hi, I am Melissa! I’m a Registered Dietitian and I have been the Nutrition Specialist for Great Harvest since December of 2010. After graduating from Colorado State University, completing the Baptist Health System Dietetic Internship Program, and working as a Medical Nutrition Specialist in Houston, I happily transferred my little family consisting of my dog Penny and I to Dillon, MT to work for Great Harvest. I love my job and being part of the Great Harvest ‘family’ as it allows me to work with an amazing group of fun intellectual individuals who are passionate about making healthy eating a delicious experience and who love to give back to communities across the country.