This is a guest blog post by Emily Kaley.
With a new school year under way and fall here, this is a time of change for many families. We love fall – football, pumpkins, apples and crisp air for playing outside. According to the “Walmart Class of 2012 Back-to-School Survey,” 76 percent of moms with children in kindergarten to 12th grade consider back-to-school a time for a fresh start over January 1st. And health is no exception, when asked, 61 percent of moms said they plan to get their families to eat more healthfully during the new school year. Fall signals back to family routines. The transition from summer fun, vacation and “more lax” food rules into the fall school year can be simple and enjoyable with a few easy tips.
The average mom (or dad) has roughly 10 minutes in the morning to get their kids ready and out the door. Research shows that kids who eat breakfast have healthier body weights, better overall diets and perform better in school. Skimping on breakfast before school is un-cool. Therefore make the mornings simple yet effective for you and your child. Start every day by fueling your child (and yourself) with easy to prepare, nutritious breakfast foods, such as fiber-rich, whole grain cereals, fruit, and low- or fat-free milk and yogurts, or warm up leftovers from the night before.
Tip #1- Give your child two quick options (that are “pre-approved”) for breakfast that will start their brain pumping.
Tip #2 – Take 10 minutes, even if you are not a “breakfast person”, to set the example and eat breakfast with your child. There are lots of benefits beyond good nutrition to a family table – and it doesn’t just have to be dinner.
Ask any kid their favorite part of the school day and most will tell you “lunch”! Make the “brown bag” lunch fun and exciting for your child. Change the meals up a bit and be creative with different colored vegetables or shapes of their sandwich on whole wheat bread. You’d be surprised how far just cutting a sandwich into triangles will go. And don’t forget to pack water or skim or low fat milk. If you are worried about your child drinking extra calories at school, there are lots of low and no calorie options now available. Backpack them – which can save calories and money.
Tip #3- Have your child be a part of the decision making for what goes into their lunch box. Sit down with them and plan the week. This will help create a shopping list and save time during the week (don’t forget you can e-mail fooducate your list!)
Tip #4 – Instead of boring ole’ sandwich bread, use whole-wheat tortilla wraps to roll up your child’s favorite sandwich ingredients or use whole grain mini-bagels. It seems like a no-brainer, but a total winner with kids.
Tip #5 – Create a “snack basket” or zone in the fridge. Many schools have lunch as early as 11am, but don’t let hungry kids sabotage dinner with endless munching after school. Keep popcorn, apples and baby carrots readily available – but kids will also be looking to “change it up”. There are also lots of yummy easy, prepared snacks, such as nuts, whole grain bars (stick to the healthiest options!) and yogurts, nowadays to have on-hand. Get Fooducated and check out the best choices for your family.
Whether your child is involved in after school activities such as sports or the school play or stays around the house make a fall resolution to eat dinner together; shoot for at least three times a week. It is not new news that families are busy. While most parents’ only have 10 minutes for breakfast, they report having only 20 to 30 minutes to get dinner onto the table. You will find there are days when a prepared chicken potpie or pizza, served with a salad provide a quick solution to get everyone to the table. There are many nutritious prepared options in the market that are not calorie laden, provide whole grains and veggies.
Tip #6 – On a night or weekend when you have time to cook make a double batch of dinner and freeze one for another night.
Tip #7 – Buy frozen vegetables to have on hand, which are just as nutritious as fresh, and use in soups, mixed dishes and stir fry to help cut down on prep-time and cost.
Tip #8 – For all of those with ‘lil picky eaters use the same tactic as breakfast and let them choose the vegetable or plan a couple of meals a week. This helps kids learn to make choices at young ages and learn to “own” their choices.
Tip #9 – Have fun. We often forget that food, cooking and meals are at the root of our cultures and should bring friends and families together. This fall could mark the beginning of a long healthier life for you and your family. So gear up and get excited for what’s to come as the leaves begin to turn, pumpkins abound and families settle back into routines! What resolution will you and your family make this fall season?
Emily Kaley is a senior at Simmons College pursuing a a BS in nutrition and food science . She is currently a nutrition communication, policy and programs intern with Dr. Lisa Sutherland.