Get Your Kids Involved1 of 9
Don't just serve food to your kids, or give them money to buy lunch. Get them involved in the "food/family" process.
That means having them help prepare the shopping list, plan meals, go along to the supermarket and help cook the meal. In a study by Nicole Larson, Ph.D., MPH, RD, and colleagues at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, frequency of preparing food was related to lower intakes of fat and higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, fiber, folate and vitamin A.
Eat Breakfast2 of 9
You and your kids should be eating breakfast. It's easy to prepare and it will improve your life. The journal Nutrition found that medical students who didn't eat breakfast were more likely to be fatigued. And according to research reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, people who miss breakfast can be more exhausted and irritable than those who don't.
Eating breakfast makes you more productive and can even help to improve your memory. Try to plan what you're going to eat in advance. You can even write a note the night before and put it on the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator.
Here are a few suggestions for healthy breakfasts: banana (or any fruit), instant oatmeal (e.g., Better Oats—www.betteroats.com), low-sugared cereal and skim milk (Shredded Wheat with berries). Yogurt is packed with lean protein (nearly 30 percent of the recommended daily value) and calcium (nearly 25 percent to 40 percent of the recommended daily value). Stonyfield Farm Organic Smoothie Varieties are tasty, and kids love them. Also try YoKids Squeezers at only 60 calories per tube.
Need it on the run? Try Dunkin' Donuts Egg White Veggie Flatbread (290 calories) or the Egg White Turkey Sausage Flatbread (280 calories). Starbucks has The Perfect Oatmeal for only 140 calories with 4 grams of fiber—and very tasty. Just avoid the added sugar topping and the dried fruit. Starbucks' Greek Yogurt Honey Parfait is 290 calories and also good. Or try their Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon with Egg Whites on English Muffin (340 calories).
Plan Lunch3 of 9
Have your kids help you pack their lunch the night before. Don't scramble in the morning. Initially, planning may require some extra time, but after a week or two it'll be smooth sailing. You might even try to create weekly menus with your kids, along with a shopping list to make preparation fast.
Sandwiches are an easy and nutritious lunch option. Always choose whole-wheat breads. You can vary the type of bread each day to keep lunch interesting. For filling, use lean luncheon meats, such as turkey, ham or roast beef, rather than bologna, salami or bacon. Add vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers.
Plain peanut butter (no added sugar, just crushed peanuts) is also a good choice for kids; try peanut butter and banana or peanut butter and raisins as a way to incorporate fruits and variety.
Make the lunch process fun by getting your kids a cool lunch box. Pottery Barn Kids makes one with your child's name embroidered on it. There are also great lunch containers such as the ones from Fit and Fresh (www.shopfitandfresh.com) or the all-stainless-steel LunchBots (www.LunchBots.com).
Snack Often4 of 9
Healthy snacks help both you and your kids get enough fuel to keep going throughout the day. Try nuts, which are nutrient powerhouses; air-popped popcorn; fruit punches made with nothing but pur?ed organic fruit (e.g., Peter Rabbit Organics); or healthy bars, such as CLIF C Bars, made from organically grown fruits and nuts, or Larabars. The best snacks are fruits and veggies. Keep a bowl of fruit and cut up vegetables on the kitchen table after school — if you see them, you will eat them.
Watch and Learn5 of 9
Your kids model their eating habits after yours. If you eat poorly, they will eat poorly. Lead by example.
Try and Try Again6 of 9
Research has demonstrated that a child may have to try a new and healthy food up to 15 times before liking it. The more frequently you offer new foods, the more routine they will seem. It also helps if the new item is introduced alongside familiar and comfortable foods. You should also try preparing the new food in different ways. Children respond to food texture, smell and social surroundings.
Eat Dinner Together7 of 9
According to research reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, family meal regularity, specifically for adolescents, predicted higher intakes of fruit, vegetables and key nutrients and lower intakes of soda and other high-calorie drinks. And according to researchers at the University of Minnesota, eating on the run is associated with significantly higher intakes of soft drinks, fast food, total fat and saturated fat, and lower intakes of healthy foods.
Finally, Dr. Mary Yannakoulia of Harokopio University in Athens, Greece, found that children who sit down with their family for a cooked meal are less likely to be obese. So, plan a structured mealtime when the entire family sits down and eats a home-cooked meal together at least three to five times per week — no excuses.
Let Them Chew Gum8 of 9
There have been a few studies stating that chewing sugarless gum can improve memory, increase test scores and help with weight control, but the problem is that these studies were mostly funded by grants from Wrigley, the chewing gum company. Still, it seems that chewing sugarless gum in moderation is not a bad substitute for eating candy, chips and cake.