Tuesday, March 03, 2009


On-the-go families can make time for healthy eating

Most parents agree that feeding their family is very important. Between juggling work schedules, soccer practice and homework it can be a real challenge for families to come together at mealtimes, let alone grocery shop and cook the meals.

Parents are also frustrated by the flood of changing nutrition advice, especially when trying to make healthy decisions for their families.

One of the top concerns is that kids are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Picky eating and eating too much junk food round out the top three overall concerns of mothers, according to a new survey commissioned by Wendys.

What are parents to do? Start with these easy practical tips:

• Make mealtime family time. Try to have at least one meal a day together and turn off the TV. Eating as a family can actually improve your child’s food habits. Kids tend to eat more fruits, veggies and dairy foods at meals shared with parents.

• Be a good role model. Set a good example for your children. How can you expect your child to eat his vegetables if you are not eating yours?

• Serve fruits and vegetables at every meal. Add grated or cut vegetables to entrees, side dishes and soups. Top off cereals with fruits or add frozen fruits to smoothies. Try slicing apples into French fry-size sticks or slicing bananas onto peanut butter and toast.

• Keep it fun. Encourage your kids to help you prepare meals and choose produce when shopping. Make fun shapes with cookie cutters to cut out melons, apples or pears.

• Stash healthy snacks. Keep these snacks in key places at all times -- your purse, the pantry, your car. As you dash out the door, grab a few healthy snacks like crackers and peanut butter, small boxes of raisins, fresh fruit, pretzels, plain popcorn, dry cereal in baggies, bottle water or low fat milk boxes.

• Think creatively to adapt your family’s schedule. Try changing your mealtime so you have at least four family meals per week. Consider packing a picnic for soccer practice and tailgate in the parking lot before it starts. Dust off the slow cooker and plan dinner the night before so it’s ready when the family comes in late after a day of work, school and baseball practice. Have a sandwich and salad night. Sandwiches can be made quickly and the prepared salad bags make salad-making a cinch. Skip the chips and instead slice up apples or add baby carrots for the crunch we often look for when eating a sandwich. Above all, don’t overextend your family’s schedule. Kids (and you) need downtime to relax, do homework and bond as a family.

• Add veggies to your pasta dishes. Everything goes with noodles, so have your kids add their favorite veggies in the cooked pasta.

• Visit your local farmers’ market. When the weather warms, bypass the local supermarket for a trip to a farmers’ market for local and/or organic produce. This makes for a nice family outing, supports the local farmers and teaches your children where foods come from. ( buyctgrown.com )

• Strike while the iron is hot. At my house, when we walk in the door dinner is still 30 minutes from the table (if we’re lucky) and my kids are famished. I put together a plate of cut veggies and fruit with low fat dressing for dipping and arrange it in funny faces. My kids are so hungry they gobble up the fruits and veggies without complaint and love to see the funny faces I create each time.


Wendy Kane is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in the Backus Hospital Diabetes Management Center. This advice should not replace the advice from your physician. Email Ms. Kane and all the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org or comment on their blog at healthydocs.blogspot.com.

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