As we approach the end of August, many parents are preparing for another school year for their children. The beginning of school is a perfect time to set the stage for the upcoming year and to create new healthy habits for the entire family. Below are simple tips to get you going on the right foot.
Start the day off right.
Eating breakfast as a family is a perfect time to bond and spend quality time together while also preparing a healthy breakfast. Eggs with whole grain toast, fruit and yogurt, or whole grain unsweetened cereal with milk and berries are several great choices. Beginning the day with a meal consisting of protein and fiber, a winning combination of nutrients, will help the entire family feel satisfied until lunch.
Nix the added sugar.
The American Heart Association suggests that children and teens ages 2-18 limit added sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons (or approximately 25 grams) per day. Kids who eat foods high in added sugars tend to eat fewer healthy foods. Added sugar provides no nutritional benefits and is found in a wide range of food from cookies, ketchup, salad dressings, sugar sweetened cereals, smoothies, to sweetened yogurts. The major culprit of added sugar, however, is soda and sugary drinks including iced tea and fruit punch. Sugary drinks, often called “liquid calories,” provide no health benefits.
Swap juice for whole fruit.
Feed children whole fruit instead of juice. The fruit is rich in fiber and its high-water content helps keep the calories low. It’s easy to guzzle down too many calories from juice without even realizing it. A pint of orange juice, for example, contains around 225 calories. This is the equivalent to 2-3 cups of mixed berries. Most people wouldn’t think twice about drinking the pint of juice but few would eat three cups of berries in one sitting.
Pack a healthy snack.
If you are packing snacks, it’s a perfect opportunity to include at least one fruit and veggie. Smart snacks include fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, baby carrots with hummus, roasted edamame, and of course a bottle of water. Nuts or nut butter squeeze packs are also great choices if a school allows nuts; if not, they are a great go-to snack when kids get home.
Skip the white food (unless it’s cauliflower or white beans).
White bread including bagels, white rice, and white pasta are refined grains and are easy to overeat. Because they contain virtually no fiber, we don’t feel satisfied after eating them. Introducing kids to healthier alternatives including quinoa, whole grain pasta, and brown rice helps them get into the habit of enjoying these grains. No need to cut out starch entirely. Choosing the healthier ones is a far better alternative.