By: Leyanee Perez, R.D, L.D.N.
It’s Back-to-School time again, and while it may look a little different this year, the challenges are the same. “What to make for lunch and snacks?” is on every parent’s mind. Home schooling can be stressful but making healthful lunches and snacks should not. Developing healthy habits at home is now easier than ever, and it all starts with a good conversation.
August Is Kids Eat Right Month™
The Academy of Dietetic and Nutrition understands that getting kids to eat right can sometimes be a challenge, particularly if they are picky eaters. However, talking with your kids about the foods they like, the foods they need, and role modeling are the first steps to creating healthful lifestyles.
Shop Smart: The fastest way to a happy meal is to serve the foods your kids like. With this in mind, parents should be able to modify any meal into a healthier version, but first you need to have all the ingredients you need at home. When grocery shopping, make a list and stick to it. Make sure to include your kids’ favorite foods but also healthy food options. If your child is a picky eater, he or she may be hesitant to try new foods or healthier versions of what they like. Negotiate by adding veggies to pizza, using low-fat dairy products when making dishes that include cheese or milk, and involve them in food preparation.
Cook Healthy: Cooking with love is necessary to create healthy delicious meals. Be mindful of the flavors, textures and aromas that your child likes. Some culinary skills and cooking books can help. No one likes mushy overcooked veggies. Add colors and textures to your meals. Menu planning is an important step in creating healthy delicious meals. For example: if you serve fish nuggets with oven-baked fries and apple chips on Monday, try turkey sliders with side salad, and a watermelon slice on Tuesday. Make sure to serve foods from all food groups: grains, protein, vegetables, fruits, dairy and healthy fats. Combine hot foods with cold ones, sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy, bright colors with whites. Meals should be enticing, educational, delicious and healthy.
Eat Right: Schedule mealtimes. Allow a 30-minute lunch break at mid-day and a 15-minute break for snack at least 2-3 hours after lunch. Make sure to stop school activities during meals and snacks, and to stay away from television or electronic devises. Sitting at the dinner table or designated table for meals is important. Eating together as a family is the perfect bonding time to converse and share stories.
Healthful Habits: Be a role model to your kids. Eat your fruits and vegetables; add whole grains and dairy products to your meals. Cook low in sodium and do not add salt to your meals at the table. Avoid sugary drinks and desserts high in sugar and fat. Drink water.
Get Moving: Everyone needs physical activity to stay healthy. Physical activity helps improve bone health, cognition, body weight, fitness and heart health. Kids need physical activity to grow strong and healthy, to sleep better, to get better grades in school, and to be in a better mood. Toddlers need to be active throughout the day. Older children and teens need 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every day, at least 30 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every day, bone and muscle strengthening aerobic activity three times per week.
About Leyanee Perez
Leyanee Perez is a Registered / Licensed Dietitian specializing in Community Programs and Health Communications who has worked with Nicklaus Children's Health System since 2018. She has impacted the lives of many children and families throughout Miami-Dade County through the nutrition outreach program called #GiveMe5, a partnership between Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation and Kohl’s Cares. She works in collaboration with government agencies, faith-based organizations and schools to host a farmer’s market and deliver educational workshops focused on the importance of eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
Get Movin' with #GiveMe5
In addition to adopting healthier eating habits, it's important to get moving! We invite you and your family to join our Healthy Kids Challenge by downloading the Walker Tracker app on your tablet or smartphone. The more steps you take, the more chances you have to win an Apple Watch or a Whole Foods gift card!
There are many benefits to eating well, from disease prevention to overall health and wellness. That’s why Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation have partnered with Kohl’s Cares on a program called #GiveMe5 to encourage children and families throughout the community to stay active and eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Our partnership brings healthy eating tips and recipes to kids in local schools and to families at various community events throughout the year. For more information, please visit our #GiveMe5 page.