With the school year getting ready to kick off yet again, it is important to get the kids back into the swing of healthy eating after a summer filled with BBQ’s, play dates, birthday parties, and vacation meals. Here are a few tips to make getting those fruits and veggies back into the routine less stressful and more enjoyable!
Have regular family meals. Knowing dinner is served at approximately the same time every night and that the entire family will be sitting down together is comforting and enhances appetite. Breakfast is another great time for a family meal, especially since kids who eat breakfast tend to do better in school.
Cook more meals at home. Eating home cooked meals is healthier for the whole family and sets a great example for kids about the importance of food. Restaurant meals tend to have more fat, sugar, and salt. Save dining out for special occasions.
Get kids involved. Children enjoy helping adults to shop for groceries, selecting what goes in their lunch box, and preparing dinner. It’s also a chance for you to teach them about the nutritional values of different foods, and (for older children) how to read food labels.
Make a variety of healthy snacks available instead of empty calorie snacks. Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain snacks, and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) around and easily accessible so kids become used to reaching for healthy snacks instead of empty calorie snacks like soda, chips, or cookies.
Limit portion sizes. Don’t insist your child cleans the plate, and never use food as a reward or bribe.
Are you starting to make your own purees for the little one? If so, here are a few tips on serving and preparation to help you out!
Serve the food no warmer than body temperature.
Use caution if you heat meals in the microwave. Microwaves heat unevenly and can create “hot spots”, so be sure to stir microwaved food well and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.
Only dish out the amount of food you think your baby will eat at that feeding. You’ll need to toss what’s left over because your baby’s saliva will get into the mixture and make it easy for bacteria to grow in the food.
Don’t sweeten your baby’s food. Babies don’t need any extra sugar. Never use honey or corn syrup, which can cause botulism, which is a potentially fatal food poisoning found in infants.
Use seasonings, as they are able to tolerate and enjoy a variety of flavors.
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container and use them up within 2-3 days. You can also freeze leftovers in ice cube trays or similar devices. After the cubes are frozen solid, remove them and store in plastic freezer bags. Fruits and vegetables frozen this way will last six to eight months. Meat will last one to two months.
Introducing solids into your toddler’s diet can be both frustrating as they tend to be fussy and resistant to trying new foods whether it is due to flavor, color, or texture. Here are a few tips to help things run smoothly during this transition!
Structure your child’s eating so that they have three regular meals a day and two healthy snacks in between meals. Making sure your child has set meal and snack times will help ensure they are eating when hungry while also avoiding grazing, which can cause children not to eat at meals times.
Serve a variety of good foods for your toddler to eat at each meal. When you offer a new food, simply place it on your child’s highchair tray without making a big deal about it.
Introduce new foods one at a time and in small amounts. Instead of an entire meal of unfamiliar foods, offer a few of their favorite items with one new item.
Try to schedule a new food when you know your child is hungry.
Use toddler-size portions. A serving size for a toddler is about 1/4 of a single portion for an adult. A serving of meat for a 1-year-old is about the size of the palm of their hand, and a serving of vegetables is only about 1 or 2 tablespoons.
Understand that some children’s palates are more sensitive than others. Some simply won’t like the texture, color, or taste of certain foods. That’s why a child might claim to dislike a food she has never even tried. Some children may reject a food because it reminds them of a time when they were sick or because they have some other negative association with it.
Resist the urge to offer sugary foods in an effort to get your toddler to eat more. You want to develop their sense of culinary adventure, not their sweet tooth!
Minimize distractions at the table. If a sibling is running around nearby or a cartoon beckons from across the room, your toddler may lose interest in the food being served. Try to make meals relaxed and quiet.
With the temps soaring and endless vacations, play dates, and activities happening each day, preparing a hearty breakfast for the little ones each morning might be somewhat challenging. Overnight oats are great because they not only require little to no preparation, but you can get the kids involved by having them help select and prepare their own combination!
1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats
1 cup whole milk, rice, soy or almond milk
1 cup plain greek yogurt
3 tablespoons honey
Add any combination or make up your own of each of these: 1/2 a banana, mashed or sliced, mashed or chopped berries (this works great with frozen berries too) ,flax seeds, chia seeds, a teaspoon of peanut or almond butter, dried fruits, chopped, almonds, walnut, cashew or pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1. In a bowl, stir together the oats, milk, yogurt and honey. Pour into small mason jars and stir in desired accompaniments.
2. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days. Serve chilled.
Adding a variety of colorful seasonal foods to your plate makes for more than an eye-catching meal. A rainbow of foods creates an abundance of nutrients, each with a different variety of benefits. Studies show that most children don’t get enough of all the essential nutrients critical to normal growth and development. Including a variety of colors into each meal also insures that your family will receive the maximum amount of nutrients at each meal, which leads to them being healthier all year long! Here is a great color guide for fruits and veggies to not only help make meal planning easier but it is also a great way to incorporate color and food recognition into daily meals with your children!
Green produce contains antioxidants and helps promote healthy vision and digestion. They also help promote a healthy immune system.
Fruits: avocado, apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi and lime
Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, green peppers and leafy greens such as spinach
Orange and deep yellow fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that promote healthy vision and immunity, and reduce the risk of some cancers. They also work with calcium and magnesium to build healthy bones!
Fruits: apricot, cantaloupe, grapefruit, mango, papaya, peach and pineapple
Vegetables: carrots, yellow pepper, yellow corn and sweet potatoes
Purple and blue options have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits and may help with memory, urinary tract health and reduced cancer risks.