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Monday, September 23, 2019

Family Meal Month

September is Family Meal Month and you may be rolling your eyes thinking, “I don’t have time for that.” Well here are some benefits to family dinner that just might change your mind.  

·     Adolescents who ate family meals five to seven times a week were twice aslikely to get A’sin school as those who ate dinner with their families fewer than two times a week.
·     Regular mealtime is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scoresthan time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art.
·     Young adults who ate regular family meals as teensare less likely to be obese and more likely to eat healthily once they live on their own.
·     For young children, dinnertime conversation boosts vocabulary even more than being read aloud to.
·     Add to that lower rates of disordered eating, improved health and nutrition, higher self-esteem and less depression, and better relationships with parents and you no longer have any reason not to make family dinner a priority. 

Family dinner doesn’t have to be food-network-worthy.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or gourmet, just start by making it happen.  Even if it means sitting down at the table to eat the PB&Js together – that is a great start. 

September is not only family dinner month, but also national cholesterol education month.  So consider a recipe that fits both bills by swapping some of your saturated fats with polyunsaturated oils.  Plant oils like corn oil are full of cholesterol-blocking plant sterols and can play a role in making family dinner doable and healthful as well. Marinades are a great way to involve the kids in some simple dinner prep that keeps a flavorful meal simple and delicious.  
Involving your kids in menu planning can help make family dinner less of a battle ground.  And as age-appropriate, I strongly suggest involving them in the cooking/preparation process as well.  We think a lot about academic and financial preparation for college and adult-life for our kids, but don’t overlook the most important life-skill – feeding themselves.  One of the best ways to help your child overcome pickiness at mealtime is to get them cooking in the kitchen.  

Will it take time? Yes.  Will it take effort and some planning?  Yes.  Will it be perfect? No.  But it will be one of the most important traditions you teach your children.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Simplify School Lunch

macro photography of school bus 

Approximately 45% of school lunch gets thrown away, and that isn’t limited to cafeteria fare either.  If you’ve spent any time at all in a school cafeteria, you know just how frustrating it is to see so many good, untouched, and often still wrapped up foods get tossed automatically in the trash.  Combine that fact with all the picture-perfect school lunch ideas all over social media and that is the perfect storm for parent frustration. Stop over thinking, simplify and get your child involved in the process of selecting and preparing their lunch so that less goes in the trash and more fuels your child.  
Consider the classics:
red apple fruit on four pyle books

A traditional sandwich plus some fruit and veggies can fit the bill without too much stress.  This way you get some carbohydrate, protein and produce all in one meal.  Sandwich meat such as roast beef is a convenient and good source of protein that works well in an allergen-free cafeteria. Not only do you get the protein kids need for growth, but you get the most absorbable form of iron – heme iron – to help with energy and cognition. Plus, vitamin B12 which is predominantly found in animal products has been shown to enhance brain development and cognitive function.  So, as this school year starts, consider beefing up that lunch box.

Tailor to their tastes: 
Not everyone is a sandwich lover.  If your kiddo likes their foods separate, then deconstruct that sandwich and send them with diced meat, cheese, crackers and some fruits or veggies. Maybe they love popcorn – so send them with a bag – that fits the whole grain bill, add in some cheese or yogurt, and some dried fruit.  Remember to keep it portion appropriate. 

Plan for hydration:
Encouraging lots of water is essential for kiddos – especially when the weather is still warm.  If you have a kiddo who refuses water or have a child who is participating in after-school sports, you might want to consider hydrating with something beyond water. Consider a portion-appropriate sports drink that provides potassium-based electrolytes, coconut water and no artificial ingredients. It can ensure good hydration on those days when long sports practices follow long school days. 

Appropriate portions always:
child and parent hands photography

A handful is a great guide for portion sizes.  Just remember to allow your kiddo to show you what their handful is so that you don’t end up overwhelming them with 4 times as many carrots. You might be a bit put off if someone packed your lunch with 2-3 cups of carrots – remember that their handful is their portion size.  Think open handful for larger, less compact items (crackers, carrots, grapes, chips) and a closed handful for smaller, denser items (dried fruit, nuts, candy). 

More than anything, keep the dialogue about what they are eating at school open and keep your school lunch plans flexible.  Less stress around eating and food makes for a healthier life for everyone involved.