When it comes to healthy eating, it is definitely a family affair! The foods and beverages that you consume can affect your current and future health. Did you know that that 1 in every 3 children are considered overweight or obese? Research has shown that an obese 2 year old has a 75% chance of being obese at the age of 35 and that an obese 19 year old has a 88% chance of being obese at the age of 35. What does this mean? It means that starting healthy habits at a young age is more important than you realize. Understanding nutrition, choosing whole foods, and establishing healthy habits can create a good foundation for health.
Here are 5 strategies to implement for healthy families:
- Practice what you preach!
Adults and caregivers serve as role models for the kids. If you are telling a child to eat their vegetables but not eating them yourself or eating fast food while telling your child that it is unhealthy – you are just going to cause confusion and resentment. When you lead by example it makes it easier for others to follow, especially those little ones looking up to you.
- “Make Friday try day!”
Or any day that works for your family. Plan out what new foods or food preparation methods you will try. It takes between 12-15 times of tasting something to know if you really liked it or not. So don’t give up on getting your kids to eat those nutritious fruits and veggies. Try roasting, grilling or airfrying preparation methods. Use fresh herbs, citrus and vegetables as seasonings or marinades. Try out the buffalo cauliflower, seasoned brussels sprouts, mashed sweet potato and kale with a kick recipes.
- Get the kids involved in the kitchen!
Let them measure out ingredients using measuring cups and scales. Ask them how much they would measure if they doubled the recipe or cut the recipe in half. Have them help with food preparation. They could wash, peel, tear (herbs or greens) or chop when age appropriate. Ask them to assist with the cooking. They could assemble, stir, season, create (make a dressing or design a garnish), taste and plate. Some of our favorite kid approved recipes are egg muffins, chocolate chip protein cookies and meatloaf muffins.
- Clean out the pantry!
Remove the trans fat and sugar loaded processed foods from the house. Watch out for kids items marketed as healthy – such as juice, cereal and convenience foods. Instead try whole fruit, amish oatmeal and balanced homemade meals/snacks. Learn how to read nutrition labels and teach your kids about sugar content (4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar).
- Incorporate a vegetable with every lunch and dinner.
Vegetables provide nutrients that most of us, especially kids, do not get enough of. Some kid- approved veggie options are cucumber slices, bell pepper rings, carrot sticks, garlic mashed cauliflower, roasted broccoli and kale chips.
Director of Nutrition Education
Healthy Steps Nutrition