With the busyness of life, kids and healthy eating seems to be a thing of the past especially with fast food options around every corner. Consumers can buy complete meals in a bag ready and waiting at the grocery store promising to be ready in less than 20 minutes. Nice, right? Quick! Loaded with tons of preservatives, these foods are depleted of almost all nutritional value. With skyrocketing obesity rates among our youth as well as adults, I am not sure we can afford physically and financially not to slow down and make lifestyle changes in us and our family as a whole.
Teenagers and healthy eating are even less of a mixture these days. Believe me! I understand. I have one entering high school this year and in band. It involves a rigorous practice schedule including 3 hour nightly practices. With 2 other children in the family, each involved in extra-curricular activities, it proves very challenging to practice the combination of kids and healthy eating. Quickie meals happen on the run to practice or eating after nine oclock. I get it.
Healthy eating for toddlers can breed a whole other form of difficulty called picky eaters. Limited to tiny bits of dry finger foods, toddler food choices can lead to highly processed or very sugary options, setting a pattern that will be difficult to change later on. The good news is kids and healthy eating can be accomplished in your family no matter where you are in the game. It starts slow and one day at a time with one choice at a time. Even implementing healthy teen eating into your family is doable but again, its one choice at a time. Here are a few suggestions for teens and pre-teens:
Give Them Choices
Moms, this is the age of empowerment. They are adults dont you know that? Or so they think. Ask them what kind of snacks and foods are their preferences. If they are healthy choices great! If not, use this as a teaching not preaching moment and guide them. Give them alternatives to the bad choices and explain to them the importance of what kids and healthy eating means to their future health.
Be a Role Model
This age group no longer buys the do as I say not as I do recital. They are watching if you walk the walk, in more ways than one. If they see you making healthy choices, they will respect more so what you are trying to speak into them concerning the same.
Get Them Active!
If you have kids that are very sports oriented, thats super. My older two children are more creative in nature and would be happy as a lark sitting inside all day gaming, reading or creating something. I have to make a point to usher them outdoors. Often I will make them run with me for a short distance. Its a great time to chat and catch up AND active! Remember, kids and healthy eating begins with you. Dont just tell them do it with them!
Teen or toddler here are a few recipes to try. Eating healthy can taste good! Add this one part of your kids and healthy eating collection.
Mac Daddy & Cheese
- 1 ¼ cup uncooked small elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup skim or low fat milk
- 5 oz. shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
- ½ tsp salt or salt substitute
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1 slice wheat bread
Cook pasta according to package. Combine flour and milk in a small pot and mix. Cook for a couple of minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add salt, pepper and cheese and stir. Add cooked pasta and mix well.
Run bread through food processor or chopper and heat in skillet until lightly browned. Sprinkle over Mac and Cheese mixture and serve. 4 servings.
Simple Sliders (Mini burgers that fit into the kids and healthy eating plan)
- 1 lb lean ground beef or ground turkey
- Mini wheat sandwich buns
- Plum tomatoes
- Romaine lettuce
- Reduced fat cheese
- Low sugar condiment choices (Low-fat mayo, mustard, reduced sugar ketchup)
- Salt or salt substitute
Salt and peeper ground meat or turkey and mix well. Form 8 patties and place on preheated grill or boiler or for a quicker easier cook, place on non-stick preheated skillet over med to high heat. Cook until desired degree of doneness, Assemble burger with condiments, half a plum tomato and romaine lettuce. Serve with homemade fries.
Here are a few kids and healthy eating suggestions for all ages:
- Dont force kids to clean their plates. Teach them portion sizes.
- Limit but dont ban fast food and low-nutrient snacks.
- Emphasize lean proteins at every meal.
- Processed or not, choose whole grain!
- Work fruits and vegetables into at least 3 meals or snacks a day.
- Limit sugary drinks. Have filtered or bottled water on hand.
- Send school lunches or at least monitor cafeteria choices. Be aware of what they are eating.
You cant win the battle over the battle. Food can very easily become a source of conflict especially in the older ones. The best strategy is to give them some control but limit what is available. Plan to succeed by making your home a “kids and healthy eating friendly zone but with some kids choice options as well!