How to prep healthier, kid-friendly family dishes
With our busy schedules, it can feel like there is little time to prepare healthy, nutritious meals. As a result, time-strapped families end up eating more meals at fast-food restaurants or buying take-out food—choices that often include foods high in calories and fat and large portion sizes.
“With childhood obesity at an all-time high affecting one in five children, it’s more important than ever to create nutritious meals and teach your children healthy eating habits,” says Nancy Blackmer, clinical dietitian at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill.
On the weekends, Blackmer recommends planning three quick, 20-minute nutritious meals for the upcoming week. “By planning ahead, you know that at least three meals will be well-balanced and the rest can be leftovers,” she says. While grocery shopping, choose fresh or frozen vegetables, or low-sodium versions of canned products. “Fresh or frozen vegetables are the best option because they don’t have the added salts and fats,” she says.
When preparing meals at home, incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables in fun ways that your children will enjoy. “Fruit and vegetable kabobs are fun for kids, and yogurt makes a healthy base for many types of dips,” Blackmer says. “Smoothies are also very popular right now—they are great tasting and nutritious.” When it comes to snacks, healthy alternatives to chips and processed foods include vegetables with hummus, fresh fruit and cheese sticks.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate recommendation, more than half of your plate should include vegetables and fruits, while lean protein and whole grains should make up the other half. “Many of us grew up thinking that protein is the center focus, but a majority of your plate should be vegetables based on the MyPlate method.”
Remember, your children develop the eating habits they see at home. “If your family regularly eats meals containing vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fruit, your children will learn healthy eating by example,” Blackmer says.
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