Don’t Overthink It: Make Health Foods a Simple Chore
By Nicola Rebello-Johnson, Med, RDN, LD
Feeling overwhelmed with the task of packing healthy food in in children's lunches or planning family meals? Eating well is important for families, even when children don't think so, so don't give up! Rather, use these tips and seek inspiration for meals and getting your children involved in their eating:
Tip #1: Incorporate All the Food Groups
For a balanced healthy lunch idea incorporating all the food groups, start with a multigrain or flax seed wrap, spread with two tablespoons of hummus, then top with one cup of mixed raw vegetables. Add two ounces of lean protein such as grilled chicken, then roll it up! It helps to wrap in foil to keep it rolled when packing in a lunch box. Accompany this wrap with a ½ cup of fat-free Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit for a complete meal.
Tip #2: Try These Tasty Suggestions
Healthy but tasty snack suggestions for kids include:
- baked tortilla chips with salsa
- celery with peanut butter
- one cup raw vegetables with fat-free dip
- ½ cup fat-free frozen yogurt
- ½ cup fat-free cottage cheese
- air-popped popcorn
- hard-boiled egg
Tip #3: Let the Kids Help
Invite your children to choose a new fruit or vegetable every time they go to the grocery store, and then eat it together at home!
Tip #4: When Grocery Shopping, Start With the Outer Perimeter of the Store
That's where fresh food such as fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy are located. The inner aisles stock more processed and junk foods.
Tip #5: For Easy Lunch Packing, Package Separately and Refrigerate
Kids can choose and assemble their lunches from these healthy items.
Tip #6: Check Out This Handy Resource for Dinner Planning
For dinner planning, visit Choosemyplate.gov for invaluable tips and tools for healthy meals (and more snack ideas). You can choose foods to eat on a budget as well as sample menus for specific calorie levels, like this sample menu for a 2000-calorie day .
Tip #7: Visit These Sites for Dietitian-Approved Lunch Box and Snack Ideas
Tip #8: Consider Volunteering at a Food Bank
To help your children understand the value of food, consider volunteering at a food bank. My family recently helped pack 1,329 Power Packs at the Freestore Foodbank. Power Packs, bags with a dozen shelf stable food items, are provided by the Food Bank to underprivileged children in Cincinnati schools so they will have something to eat on the weekends and holidays, when school is out and they don't have access to the school's meal program.
Food might seem like an afterthought to children, but 42.2 million Americans live in food-insecure households and might not know where to expect their next meal. Making this connection with your children through volunteering might help them understand the value of healthy food. Visit FreeStoreFoodBank.org to volunteer and learn about the services the food bank provides, including catering. All the food is cooked by 'Cincinnati Cooks' a free culinary program provided by the food bank.
Thinking beyond fast food and making picky eaters happy might seem like an impossible task, but it's worth it. Creativity, advice from others, and planning ahead might be just what you need!