Activate Your Family Meals
Time spent eating meals at home is a better predictor of academic success and emotional adjustment for kids than school, homework, athletics, arts or religious participation.
What you buy impacts what you are able to cook and what you grab for in a pinch.
- Eat the Perimeter – 90% of the healthy food in a grocery store is around the perimeter. Eating healthier starts with healthier shopping. It’s been proven that one of the critical steps to having healthier food in the house is to actually make a shopping list with meals in mind. Shop for fat-free or reduced-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese) and lean protein sources (skinless poultry, fish, turkey sausage), and have freshly washed vegetables and fruit available at all times.
- Harvest of the Month – California is blessed with fresh, in-season foods. Help your kids (and grown-ups) explore new foods by picking one a month. Buy it, grow it, pick it, ask a farmer about it, research it, and then cook it lots of ways! You can align your exploration with the school-based Harvest of the Month calendar, and get recipes from their Family Newsletter, this simple booklet organized by food item, or anywhere online.
Refreshing New Choices
- Make Spa Water at Home – Been enjoying refreshing Spa Water with your co-workers or at a spa? Help your family kick the soda habit and make spa water at home. Any combination of cut fruit and herbs can be yummy: Mixed Citrus; Lemon-Rosemary; Cucumber; Pineapple-Mint are all tasty varieties. Try some of the recipes we have detailed here.
- Eat Smart When Eating Out – When dining out, cut fat calories by choosing grilled or broiled meats. Also look for lower-fat meats, such as sirloin. Request a small serving size. Serving size does matter!
Snack Packing Party –
Take 5 minutes each night to prep snacks for the next day, or use a night like Sunday to gather snacks for the whole week. You can use small Tupperware to pack cut-up fruits and vegetables, whole grain crackers and cereal, low-fact cheese, and spreads. Apple slices with peanut butter, low-fat yogurt with strawberries, air-popped popcorn, baby carrots and red pepper sticks with low-fat dip like hummus, and homemade trail mix made with whole grain cereal, nuts, and dried fruit are all great options.
- Kid Friendly, Body Healthy – Learn to make leaner versions of your kids’ favorites — like tacos with ground turkey, pizza with toasted whole-wheat pita bread and reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, baked sweet potato fries, and baked or broiled chicken fingers. Try Disney Family, Cooking Light, Eating Well, and Parenting.com.
Diversify Your Food
Try reading (and coloring) this story book from the USDA – about two young cat siblings and the “Two Bite Club”
- Try Something New – This week, introduce one totally new item into your diet. Shop the farmers market, or even your local grocery, and ask the vendor how to use a produce item you don’t recognize. They will be happy to help you! Read about 8 Super-Healthy Foods We Guarantee Your Kids Will Eat, or just pick up a cookbook from your own collection or local library, and make a random dish. You can also surf Epicurious for some of the best recipes from Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and SELF magazines.
- Meatless Mondays – Cutting back on meat, especially red meat and processed meat, can be a great benefit to your health and your wallet. Try “Meatless Monday” or one other day a week. This site has great recipes and celebrity endorsements from the likes of Russell Simmons, Giada de Laurentis, Jessica Simpson, and Olivia Wilde.
- Upgrade Your Recipes – It’s easy to make classic family recipes just a bit healthier. Check out this Everyday Healthy Meals Cookbook for all the meals (plus snacks and dessert). Try a range of Healthy Latino Recipes Made with Love, or these Mexican updates in Flavors of My Kitchen. African American dishes are at Soulful Recipes – building healthy traditions. For updated Chinese dishes see Healthy Chinese Cuisine Using Fruits and Vegetables.
- Eat the Rainbow – Eating foods of a full variety of colors ensures diversity in your diet, and guarantees you will get lots of critical vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. It’s a great way to engage kids, and hey, if Oprah is doing it…Read more about eating the rainbow in this article.