Our blog ‘Nourishing Thoughts’ keeps families informed on current nutrition news, fun kid-friendly nutrition tips to encourage healthy food, nutrition, and exercise choices, nutrition articles, and interactive tools for parents. Our healthy nutrition blog is for parents, teachers, and everyone who is interested in kids' health and nutrition.
6 Exciting Ways to Mix Up the Old Dinner Routine
It’s 5 o’clock and you are dreading the same boring dinner routine. So are your kids. Statistics show that many American families, 75 percent, eat together at least four nights per week. But those other nights count too. While work and after-school activities do sometimes interfere, these statistics show that parents need to make it worthwhile for their kids and teens to eat at the family dinner table. Everyone stands to benefit from a family meal. Here are six ways to make dinner more inviting for everyone:
Try New Recipes
We all get tired of the same boring meals night after night. We have hundreds of recipes at our fingertips, however. You can use your smart phone or computer and pull up recipes for any tastes. For example, if you like restaurant meals, you can find “copy-cat” recipes online. Additionally, posting the weekly menu on the refrigerator will get kids to look forward to their favorites, both new and old.
Get Kids to Help Cook
Most kids really like to help their parents cook. Empower them by letting them do age appropriate jobs. Studies have shown that kids who are allowed to help cook, more often taste new foods. They learn about healthy choices and ingredients as well.
Order Prepared Dinners
Some days there is just no time to cook a healthy dinner from scratch. These are the nights when you can liven up dinner with organic meal delivery services. There are many to choose from. Some are pre-cooked and all you have to do is heat. Others require you to put ingredients together and cook before serving. Either way, you get new and healthy food choices without all the work of a traditional meal.
Eat Dinner in a Different Place
Who says you have to eat dinner sitting around the kitchen table? Changing the routine can be fun and make meals seem exciting. On warm evenings, take dinner outside and eat at a picnic table in the backyard or perhaps even in the park. Winter can be more challenging, but you could have a picnic on the living room floor if you spread a blanket and choose foods that won’t be too messy.
Mix up Menus
In many homes, spaghetti is always served with meatballs. Perhaps you tend to serve steak with potatoes and chicken with rice. But, there are no rules saying you have to do this. Make lists of the foods your family likes in several categories such as fruits, vegetables, starches, and proteins. You can then let someone choose one food from each list to have for dinner. Or, if they seem to choose the traditional, you can cut the list so each item is on a strip, put the strips from each category into separate bowls, and pick one from each. You will have a whole different experience and can spend the time at the table discussing what you think about eating the old foods in a new way.
Find out what your friends are having for dinner. Maybe they have some ideas you hadn’t ever thought of or recipes that they can share. Better yet, have a meal swap. Both you and a friend make a complete meal for the family then swap them. It is a great way to switch things up and get something different. You can even get a group of friends together and each make several batches of whatever dinner you choose. Then, when you swap, each family goes home with several dishes, one for tonight and others to refrigerate or freeze for future evenings.
Eating together as a family is important and has been shown to help kids eat more fruits and vegetables and increase toddlers vocabularies. School age children get better grades while teens are less likely to smoke, drink alcohol, or do drugs. Making dinner fun again will encourage kids to want to eat as a family. You will also be happier and it is likely that everyone will eat healthier too.
How Parents Can Fight the War on Junk Food
When you think about a healthy diet, what comes to mind? Three square meals, fruits and veggies? Low carb, no sugar? There is so much information in circulation today that it can be hard to know where to start, let alone how to begin teaching your children about healthy eating.
The best way, of course, is to start fostering healthy eating habits from day one, but sometimes that just isn’t feasible. Maybe it’s only recently you’ve come around to healthier eating yourself. If that’s the case, it can be hard to course correct your child’s relationship with food. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
The best way to start transitioning your child into a healthier way of eating is to start replacing their fatty, salty, sugary snacks with a healthier option. While there are a plethora of resources available to help you plan healthy, easy to cook meals for picky eaters, it can be harder to find healthy snack options. With 91% of Americans snacking multiple times per day, according to a study by the Hartman Group, snacking has become an important part of how our culture interacts with food.
That means the sooner we can teach children to make healthy snacking choices, the better off they will be.
How to Encourage Healthy Snacking
When choosing your healthy snacks, it’s important to not only consider the fat and sodium content, but also your child’s dietary preferences. Do everything in your power to avoid treating healthy snacks like a chore or obligation.
The most important thing is to always keep healthy snacks stockpiled in your home. Low-sodium cheese, fruit cups, carrots, and yogurt are all great options. If your child is craving certain treats, look for healthier, homemade replacements: instead of fatty potato chips, try making some homemade kale chips or edamame. Likewise, you can replace candy bars with healthy snack bars packed with vitamins, healthy calories, and nutrients.
When to Snack
Snacks can be very beneficial for children, whose constant growth requires an endless amount of fuel. Young children (or older ones in the middle of a growth spurt) should be encouraged to have two snacks a day, while children not experiencing such rapid growth should be fine with only one.
In order for your child to get the most out of their snacking, you should make sure that you are offering snacks at the halfway point between meals, otherwise you might spoil your child’s appetite, or worse, encourage them to refuse food at meal time so they can save room for a tasty snack a half hour later.
This also helps to instill a regimented approach to eating. While one should never refuse a hungry child food, it is important that food does not become a cure for boredom or emotional distress. That’s a sure way to create an unhealthy relationship with food. If you doubt your child’s hunger, have a conversation with them. This teachable moment can save them years of bad eating habits and even food addiction.
While it can sometimes be hard, especially when dealing with a picky eater or supertaster, teaching your child healthy snacking habits is a huge step towards instilling a healthy relationship with food. In a society struggling with obesity, junk food, and eating disorders, a healthy relationship with food will help lead your kids to a happier, healthier life.
Carli Smith is the Marketing Communications Coordinator and a writer for Nature’s Bakery. She is a yoga enthusiast and loves nothing more than weekend getaways, Disney movies, ocean views and country concerts.