Reset and recharge – family nutrition strategies
By Shauna Schultz, RD
It’s time to say goodbye to those lazy days of summer when we live with less structure, and hello to school days and schedules… which means time to give more thought to family meals, snacks, and school lunches. Prioritizing healthy meals is important. One-third of children ages 2-19 and more than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese (Centers for Disease Control, 2015). If being overweight is accompanied by inadequate fruit and vegetable intake and too much fat, salt, and sugar, then healthy meals become essential.
Not sure where to start? Making changes as a family is key, and involving everyone in planning is helpful. Giving family members options and ownership over choices while keeping the experience fun is important in fostering positive feeling towards healthy foods. The following strategies will help you develop healthy eating habits and make the year ahead a breeze!
Variety with Veggies
Do you find yourself choosing the same two or three vegetables because they’re easy to prepare or your children prefer them? Potatoes (in the form of French fries) and canned tomatoes are the most commonly consumed vegetables in the country, but it’s time to branch out … and literally eat the rainbow! Make it a goal to include dark green, orange, and other brightly-hued vegetables each week. The greater the variety, the more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you’re getting. Exposure to a variety of vegetables early on also increases the likelihood your children will accept them. It may take several attempts, though, so don’t give up!
Find Your Inner Chef
An estimated 43% of all food spending is spent on food away from home (United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2012). Apart from being more expensive, food prepared outside the home is typically higher in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar. Make it a goal, then, to set aside one day a week for meal planning and involve the whole family. Need meal ideas? Try a BriarPatch cooking class!
Include More Plant-Based Meals
Did you know that plant-based diets are associated with a 62% reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and a 13% reduced risk of developing heart disease (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2016)? They’re also associated with a lower overall cancer risk and body mass index. Including more whole, plant-based foods is a low-risk intervention that increases your vitamin, mineral, and fiber intake, and helps decrease inflammation. Make it a goal to eat plant-based at least one day a week and explore delicious new meals!
Annual snack food sales in North America reached $124 billion, with sweet and salty snacks dominating sales (Nielson Holdings, 2014). Given that about one-quarter of a teenager’s total calorie intake comes from snacks, marketing to children and parents is big business. Even snacks that are advertised as being healthy, though, are better off left on the shelf since they usually don’t compare to homemade snacks. Make a goal to prepare snacks at home that help you reach nutrition goals. Try simple grab-and-go options like apple slices with almond butter, yogurt and berries, popcorn, unsalted nuts and dried fruit, roasted chickpeas, or avocado on toast.
It’s never too late to make healthy changes! Start by making a few changes at a time and enjoy a healthy foundation for years to come. For a yummy and nutrient-dense snack idea, try the following recipe, it feels indulgent, yet is a good source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber.