Back-to-school season is around the corner — endless days jam-packed with little time to meal plan. The combination of little time and hungry tummies often results in less-than-healthy meals, particularly for children.
Although tight schedules are a deterrent, it is possible to help your children — and the rest of the family — even when the clock never seems to stop. Here are six simple ways to promote healthy eating in your home.
1. Don’t buy junk food
Foods high in sugar or sodium and other trendy pre-packaged snack foods are common wherever you go. An occasional bag of chips or fruit bar doesn’t hurt, but if you have it in your house, it will get eaten.
Instead of buying these items, let your children eat junk food at birthday parties, sporting events and a variety of other activities. When you spend money on groceries, focus on purchasing whole foods that have limited processing and are high in nutrients. Not only will you have the building blocks for healthy meals, you’ll likely save money.
2. Prepare ahead of time
You might wonder, “How am I supposed to prepare ahead of time if I’m always busy?” You need only one day a week to prep healthy snacks and foods. Use a weekend day to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and other ingredients. Wash, cut and store foods in airtight containers to be taken to school that week.
You’ll find with a small amount of preparation, eating healthy becomes easy. The key is having a variety of healthy foods readily available.
3. Make meals a priority
Show your children and family meal times are a priority, to reinforce good eating habits to last a lifetime.
Encourage breakfast each morning to help concentration at school. Have your children help you prepare their school lunches, explaining the importance of each type of food and how it will help their bodies function and grow.
As you plan healthy meals, let your children give ideas and help with the shopping. Finding coupons, tasty combinations and recipes can become an exciting challenge for kids.
4. Set an example
You can’t expect your kids to eat broccoli when you’re munching on potato chips. Parents who eat healthy often raise children who do the same. If you don’t set a good example, now is the time to start.
As you pack lunches together, show your children you’re eating the same or similar healthy foods. Fresh or dried fruit, cut-up raw veggies and low sugar granola bars are a great place to start.
Limit energy drinks, sweets, juices and caffeinated beverages. Focus on a balance of nutrient rich foods rather than just one or two healthy items.
5. Find packaging that makes life easier
Rather than opting for pre-packaged lunches that are usually high in added sugars and unhealthy fat, buy airtight containers with multiple compartments for your own version of the store-bought kind.
Pack a balance of healthy options and plenty of water. Juice boxes might be easy to toss into a lunch box, but water hydrates better without empty calories (or cavities). Try freezing a water bottle to keep lunch cool and offer a refreshing drink at lunchtime.
Invest in an insulated lunch box, so you can pack perishable healthy foods in your child’s lunch. Although fruit snacks and sugary granola bars might be easy, they do little to fuel your child’s brain and movement throughout the school day.
In all, healthy eating comes down to proper planning, purchasing and follow-through. Making meals at home will also create an environment where healthier foods are consumed. As you try different ideas, your children will benefit from complete and healthy lunches to boost their learning and energy throughout the school day.
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