Fall is right around the corner and so is the new school year. I am beginning to see kids in my neighborhood getting ready for the new school year. Some seem excited, while others not so much. Regardless, pretty soon everyone will be hitting the libraries and will get busy with schoolwork.
While stocking up on notebooks and planning the academics, why not make an effort to start some healthy eating habits as a family this school year? Below are some suggestions:
1. Plan ahead
I’ll actually begin with a confession. I always loved junk and have been a junk eater all my life. It was only a few years back that I decided to eat healthy after I gained a lot of extra pounds in my dorm room back in college. I blame school stress and lots of cappuccino for that. But the point is I changed, and what I did to make that switch was I started planning ahead. It means taking a few minutes every weekend to plan your menu for the coming week. It doesn’t have to be all that fancy. Just jot down your main courses for the weekdays coming up and make your grocery list with the menu in hand. This prevents you from grabbing junk food that appeals to you oh so much in the grocery aisle. As soon as you get tempted, just look at precise and thoughtfully put together grocery list in your hand and stick to it. Planning ahead also helps you include variety of items to meet all your nutritional needs.
2. The Grocery shopping
My parents immigrated to Canada in there 40s. One of the things they found so awesome were the sales! My parents would just grab any item on sale. Unfortunately, a lot of these items were junk. This brings me back to the first point: plan ahead! It works!! When you have a list in hand, you don’t just ride the bandwagon and fill your cart with items on sale. Just stick to your goal of checking off items from your list and put them in your cart. Also, involve your kids in grocery shopping. Ask them to grab a bag of milk, a bag of apples, whatever it may be. When you involve kids while doing groceries, they start to take interest in food.
3. Celebrate food!
This means taking them for grocery shopping as mentioned before, talking to them about food, preparing food together and making food fun! Food is truly a blessing and we have to teach our children to be thankful for having food in their plates. While preparing meals, I let my toddler throw in garlic or just stir with me. I teach her a thing or two about safety on the way. Make food fun by changing up the recipe and trying out new things with your family. Ask your children for suggestions; you’ll be surprised how creative they are!
4. Family that eats together, stays together
An article recently published in New York Times talked about kids who had 2 -3 meals a week with family had lower chances to obesity in adolescence. I myself have witnessed this; I started gaining weight when I was binge eating in college in front of my laptop. If you live with your family, lucky you! Plan your day around mealtime and make it a point to have at least dinner together as a family. Have toddlers and babies in the house sit and have their meals as well. This teaches them to eat on their own and wouldn’t always be dependent on you to help them finish their meals.If you are away from home in college, try to be not in front of screen while eating. if you can have a buddy for mealtime, that'd be great! If that's not possible, try and have your meals at a table away from all your gadgets!
5. Don’t nibble
Don’t nibble and don’t let your child nibble. Neither you nor your kids have to walk around with snacks all day. We tend to do this because we spend a lot of times in front of screens these days and we are always tempted to grab something and put it in our mouths. This mindless eating is probably the biggest culprit when it comes to obesity and weight gain. Restrict all foods to designated mealtimes and snack times. We have fixed both the time and place of our meals. Dinner is served at 7 pm at the dinner table, not at the couch, not at the bed and definitely not in front of laptops
6. If you really have to, go healthy.
Now, if you’re working in front of the screen for 8 hours straight, you WILL feel the urge to have something by your side, some ideas could be walnuts, raisins, almonds, yogurt and blueberries. Yea, it might sound a little boring but trust me, you will miss your cookies and cakes for a week max and then you will begin to enjoy those crunchy walnuts! yum
7. Take the middle path
With the recent increase in obesity and other diseases caused by unhealthy eating, concerned parents are trying their best to control their kids’ sugar and fat intake. Unfortunately, it seems like there are two extreme perspectives: Parents who have no control over their kids’ eating habits and over controlling parents who are not letting their kids have a single bite of cookie. The better approach? Be moderate. I was one of those over controlling parents who denied my toddler any sugar. All she had till age 1 was broccoli, carrots, quinoa, mashed apples, bananas, sweet potatoes..throw in a couple of more veggies and fruits and you get the point. The result: she started falling off the growth curve after age 1. She was an active toddler and her body NEEDED fats and sugars we were denying her. We desperately started putting in extra butter in her meals to get her weight up but we struggled. She actually prefers broccoli instead of cookies. My take home lesson: Be moderate, offer a cookie or two along with veggies and fruits. What’s more important is your kid meeting all the nutritional needs. As far as they are good with that, having a cookie or two wouldn’t hurt.
8. Be your kids hero!If you have a toddler who is struggling to finish their carrots, grab a handful of carrots in your plate and finish them delightfully! Our kids follow our lead so if we want to instill healthy eating habits in them, we have to eat healthy ourselves. Also, when introducing new foods to your kids, try them out yourself in front of them and talk about how good it tastes! Let them try a little bit. If they refuse, let them try some more at a later time. The point is to make them make decisions on their own instead of you forcing them to eat. If they feel in control, chances are they will enjoy their food more and finish that plate faster than you think!