Eat Smarter

Posted on Thursday, January 13th, 2011  |  

 

Stacey's blog last week made me think about my New Year's Resolution to be healthier: exercise more, eat better …the usual. The part that is hard for me is eating a well balanced diet.  It is my same resolution every year and I try, I really do. But life gets so busy and the temptation for quick and easy is so strong. I am always rushing off to work and it is so much easier to hit up a drive through on the way. I tell my self it is not so bad-it's not like I get the double cheeseburger, but the problem is that it becomes a lifestyle very quickly.  We all know how important it is to make healthy lifestyle choices and it is really important that it begins at a young age. When I was younger, we always ate a good and balanced dinner, which always included milk, fruits and vegetables along with the requisite meat and potatoes. However, my sisters and I were pretty picky eaters; there were only a few vegetables and fruits that we ate. As I got older and went to college, I got exposed to new foods that I had never tried before. I resisted stubbornly at first but once I tried things it was like a whole new world had opened up to me: onions, asparagus, artichokes, garlic, it was all delicious and I never knew.  I wish that I had been pushed a little harder as a child to try more foods and to rely more on healthy snack choices. It might not be quite so difficult for me to avoid the fries at the food court as an adult.

It is so important to teach our children good eating habits from the time that they are young so that they can build on them as they get older. Encourage your kids to try new things, get them involved in making the food, make healthy food fun. I get snacks ready for our Discovery Preschool program every day so I know it can be more difficult and time consuming to come up with healthy snacks that kids will eat. It would be much easier to open a bag of chips or cookies every day but not only is this unhealthy for the kids today; it is setting the stage for a lifetime of poor eating habits. Many preschoolers and young children have very strong opinions about what they like and do not like and what they will simply not eat. It is okay for kids to not like a food but it is not okay for them to decide this before they try the food. It is my job, and parent's jobs, to get them to try new things, to make fruits and vegetables appealing and fun. Here are a few snack suggestions to make this easier and that have helped me in planning the menu for preschool:

– Be creative, let your kids play with their food. Try eating applesauce through a straw.  Make ants on a log: celery with peanut butter or cream cheese and raisins. Let the kids help: make your own trail mix: kids count out different ingredients to add to the mix.  Try Banana Bugs: kids can create creatures using a whole banana and pretzel sticks. If you need ideas there are a bunch of great websites that have a lot of quick and easy options. . One of my favorites is www.pbs.org.

– You could have your child pick what vegetable they would like to try that day, empower them to make a good choice. If a child refuses to eat a certain food, have another choice available. They can choose but they must eat one or the other.

– Have healthy snack options readily available for times when you are in a hurry: carrot sticks, apple slices, cheese slices with whole wheat crackers, raisins. This will allow you to throw these choices in on the way out the door rather than chips or candy.

–  Be a good example, it will be difficult for your kids to agree to eat carrot sticks if you are eating a bag of popcorn. Be adventurous yourself: don't assume that because you don't like a certain food, that your kids won't either.

– Keep trying: studies have shown that kids need repeated exposure to foods. If your child refuses to eat carrots try serving them in different ways: cooked, raw, with a little ranch.

It can be more time consuming and require more thought and creativity but it is vital to teach children about healthy choices from a young age and it will be easier for them to carry these throughout their life into adulthood.  Make the effort, your kids will appreciate it down the road.

Happy (healthy) Eating!
Jill