The school year marks a hectic time for parents. Children run out the door to catch the bus, then spend their evenings at after-school programs or practice. As parents rush children between activities and struggle to balance work and family obligations, many might choose the easiest option available – fast food or convenience foods, like chips and cookies.
But there’s no reason that busy families can’t enjoy healthy meals and healthy snacks through the school year. The Weight-control Information Network (WIN), an information service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), offers the following tips for providing healthy food no matter how tight your schedule:
• Make sure that children eat breakfast. Without a healthy breakfast, children won’t have the energy to sit through their morning classes. Plus, they’ll be more likely to eat larger, less healthy meals later in the day. Even if your children are running late, they should be able to eat a slice of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter or a berry smoothie as they dash for the bus.
• Allow children to pack their own, healthy lunches. Children are more likely to eat meals that they help prepare. Give children choices between healthy options. For example, allow them to choose what kind of fruit they would like in their lunch. Try to include fruits, vegetables, a whole grain and healthy protein in your children’s lunches.
• Offer healthy snacks. If children want to munch after school, make sure that they aren’t reaching for potato chips by stocking your kitchen with healthier options. For healthy, kid-friendly snacks, try dried fruit and nuts; fresh fruit and yogurt; rice cakes, whole-grain crackers or whole-grain bread served with low-fat cheese, peanut butter, almond butter or soynut butter; pretzels or air-popped popcorn; homemade fruit smoothies made with fresh or frozen fruit and low-fat milk, soy or rice milk, or yogurt; and whole-grain cereals.
For more information, call WIN at 1-877-946-4627 or visit www.win.niddk.nih.gov, and read the free brochure, “Helping Your Child: Tips for Parents.”