With summer winding down, it’s back-to-school season for many of us. The start of the school year is a perfect time to set the stage for the coming year and to create healthy habits for the entire family. Here are 5 healthy tips to get you started.
1. Sit down and eat (a healthy) breakfast as a family
The morning is a great time to bond as a family as well as start off the day with a nourishing breakfast. Great choices include eggs and whole grain toast, a bowl of oatmeal or yogurt. And always include a serving of fruit which provides added vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
2. Choose healthy portion sizes
Regardless of what you eat and serve your children, I am an advocate for practicing portion control. The amount of food you eat matters just as much, if not more, as what you eat. Larger portions contain more calories than small portions so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on how much you feed your family. I love using the plate method when teaching kids about portion sizes. For a healthy dinner, fill half of the plate with colorful vegetables, a quarter with protein (fish, chicken, turkey, or legumes) and the other quarter with a healthy starch (quinoa, brown rice, or sweet potato). No need to ban entire food groups! And to prevent eating too much, skip eating in front of the TV.
3. Choose fruit instead of juice
When counseling families on healthy eating, I recommend eating whole fruit over drinking juice. Fresh fruit contains fiber which not only provides health benefits but also helps keep you full. It is also very easy to drink too many calories from juice without noticing.
4. Snack smart
Keeping healthy snacks in the house as well as packing snacks for your kids is a great opportunity to add a serving of fruits or vegetables and boost nutrient intake. Smart snacks include an apple and yogurt, baby carrots with string cheese, and hummus with red peppers. Nuts and nut butters with whole grain crackers are great to have on hand for kids’ after-school snacks, and a fruit platter placed on the counter is another way to encourage your family to eat more fruit. Looking for ideas for packing nutritious lunches? The Power Your Lunchbox initiative by Produce for Kids offers more than 70 ideas for fun and delicious school lunches.
5. Swap soda (and other sugar-sweetened beverages) for water
Soda and sugary drinks including fruit punch and sweetened iced tea are the major culprits containing added sugar and provide no nutrients whatsoever. Therefore, I suggest eliminating them from the diet. I recommend drinking water or sparkling water instead. A great way to jazz up water is to add fresh lemon, orange, mint leaves or cucumbers.
Lisa R. Young, PhD, RDN, is an internationally recognized nutritionist, portion size expert, and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University. Dr. Young is the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at Time and The Portion Teller Plan and is regularly called upon by major media outlets as an expert voice on nutrition and health. She has been counseling clients for more than 20 years, blogs at www.drlisayoung.com, and inspires her community to make healthy food and lifestyle choices.