By Rosemarie C. Lister, MPH
Being involved in after school activities is a great way to stay active, healthy and have fun. The more active a child is the more they need the appropriate nutrients to sustain them. Whether running to sports or other after school activities, often times we are eating while running out the door. We need new "recipes" to find the time to enjoy tasty, nutritious food to nourish our body, mind and soul.
Transitioning to new foods is not always easy. We have a tendency to become set in our ways at any age, especially when it comes to our food choices. However, students at Northwestern Lehigh Elementary Schools overwhelming approved the "sampling" of six of new and healthy food items in the school cafeteria. Approximately 80% of all kids tried the new samples and of those 90% approved! Now more than ever they are excited to try new foods.
See the article from The Morning Call: Northwestern Lehigh is letting students sample healthy foods in hopes they'll make better choices in the cafeteria.
The following are some "ingredients" to help us incorporate healthy approaches, attitudes and foods into a busy lifestyle:
Think outside the Food Box:
Attitude is everything and healthy habits are adapted when we are open to them. If a child eats only the same few foods, point out some examples of how they are limiting themselves. Do they only use 3 colors when they draw? If they were having a party would they only invite two friends? Would they only wear the same two shirts to school? Sometimes giving examples like these can help them see how they are limiting themselves. Share the benefits of trying things repeatedly. If they tried the sweet potato tator tots at school and did not like them, encourage them to try again. Give examples of foods you kept on trying and now enjoy.
Best offense is a good defense:
Kids can understand the importance of a good offense and a good example. If a tiny allergy pill can stop you from sneezing all day, imagine the impact that food can have on our bodies. We are what we eat. Fruits, vegetables, healthy whole grains and proteins, have been proven to provide the energy we need for daily endurance and build our immune system. Our children are exposed to many germs, so why not build up their immune system with some nutritious foods they will enjoy. Getting enough rest, reducing stress and eating healthy are all ways to build their immune system.
Kids like to exercise control over their lives and one way they do this is by having an opinion about their food choices. Some kids are more open than others when trying new things. It has to be a team effort. If you want your child to be open to new choices the best way is to work together. They can help shop for the food and help prepare them or add something new to a recipe they already like. When they are open to trying new things we become more open to giving them more responsibility. Encourage creativity; if they already love chicken and cheese burritos then give healthy choices that can add more flavor and nutrients, such as broccoli or spinach. Or shred up some different greens for their tacos. It becomes a win-win. If they are involved in the process they will be more likely to enjoy the outcomes and incorporate a new attitude and new meals into their routine.
Shopping and preparing food takes a lot of work. Not to mention the cleaning up! It is important for us to thank our cooks. Encourage each other to thank whoever is preparing the foods. The more the cooks are appreciated the more likely they will be willing to put it the extra effort.
What you say is as important as what you prepare. Children can sense a parent's hesitation which makes them think you are trying to pull something over on them. Body language and what we say can discourage them. Instead, be confident when you introduce something new. If you believe they will like it then there is more of a chance they will.
Healthy Meals on the Go and When Shopping:
Even with the best intentions, sometimes planning ahead doesn't work and we need to go for take out. Fortunately, many healthy choices are available. Wraps, sushi, soup and sandwiches, fresh cut fruits and vegetable are widely available. Try it before you buy it. Ask for a sample of healthier choice you have never had before. Be adventurous, there are many kids who enjoy brown rice California rolls. When shopping, think ahead and try different takes on your favorite staples, such as whole wheat or multi-grain pasta, baked chips, light cheese, snacks made with non-hydrogenated oils.
New Foods can be Fun! Think Beans:
We have Bean waiting! Beans were introduced at our elementary schools to an overwhelming positive response. Approximately 80% of all kids tried the new samples and of those 90% approved! Visit NWLSD website to find the new bean recipes and learn more about Try-it Tuesday's and Thursday's. Beans provide fiber, protein, iron, calcium, zinc and B vitamins. They are quick, easy to prepare and taste great. They are also quite versatile and easy to add to almost anything such as:
Hummus, Refried black or pinto bean burrito, soups, pasta dishes, dips,
Red beans and rice, Black Bean Salsa, Turkey Chili, Three bean chili, Edamame
Ideas for Quick, Healthy Meals:
The following are ideas that incorporate using some healthy new additions. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov and the Mayo Clinic Healthy Recipe Index for more ideas and recipes.
Whole wheat pancakes
Whole wheat waffles
Whole wheat English muffin egg sandwich
Yogurt with granola, fruit or cereal
Wrap it up:
Broccoli, chicken and cheese wraps
Refried black bean burritos: Layer refried beans, salsa and cheese in burrito shell, wrap and heat.
Refried pinto bean burritos
Buffalo chicken wraps
Turkey, cheese and spinach wraps
Sushi wraps: Layer cooked shrimp, lettuce, avocado, carrots and wrap in softened rice wrap.
Leftover fish, chicken, or turkey wrapped up with some veggies
Hummus and veggie wrap
Throw it together ahead of time:
Broccoli, brown rice, chicken and cheese casserole
Pesto Pasta plain or throw in chicken or shrimp
Kids pasta primavera: Throw your favorite cooked veggies into Mac and Cheese
Soup it up:
Make it or buy it ahead of time. Soup smells so good they will want to try it. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil throw in your favored ingredients and water and simmer away. Serve with grated cheese on top.
Chicken noodle soup
Split pea soup
Scoop it up:
Grab some kid approved baked tortilla scoops and start scooping these up.
Black bean dip: layer light cream cheese, refried beans, salsa and shredded cheese. Heat & serve.
Drink it up:
Smoothies: Throw yogurt and any of your favorite frozen fruits in for a quenching and healthy treat.
Water with fresh lemon: Refreshing and adds plenty of vitamins C.
Spritzer: Mix half seltzer with a splash of cranberry or other juice.
Snack it up:
Everything or whole wheat matzo with mustard
Baked potato with broccoli and cheese
Steamed baby artichokes; kids enjoy peeling off each layer to get to the heart
Hummus with cut up veggies or whole wheat pita slices
Fruit with cottage cheese or yogurt
Yogurt with granola or cereal
Soy nut butter and jelly on whole wheat with sprinkled cinnamon
*Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread
*Peanut butter and honey on whole wheat bread
*Peanut butter, soy nut butter or almond butter on a banana
*Peanuts, walnuts and pistachio nuts are fun to buy in the shell and let the kids crack them open at home.
*Nuts are a great source of vitamins and minerals and have numerous health benefits. However, there are a growing number of students who have severe and sometimes life threatening reactions to being around nuts. Many schools support a peanut free environment. Allergies to wheat products are also prevalent. Please check with your schools and take this into consideration when shopping or making food to bring into the schools or to games and practices.
A Community Health Promotion and Education Handout by Rosemarie C. Lister, MPH
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