March is National Nutrition Month and obesity has become an epidemic with adults and especially our children. If we don’t start teaching our kids how to eat well and start focusing on exercise and nutrition at an early age, we’re taking away their opportunity for a long, healthy, and successful life. Who wants a life rigored by trips to the doctors, illness, and disease? As parents and caring adults it’s our responsibility to be our own advocate and more importantly for our children, grandchildren, Godchildren, nieces and nephews, etc.
Spring is right around the corner and that opens more opportunities to eat better with vegetables and fruits coming into season. Sometimes healthy food can be kind of boring and bland especially to children who have been used to a lot of salt (chips, pretzels, processed foods) and sugar (cookies, candy, ice cream, processed foods). Find ways to up your flavor profiles, make eating healthy an adventure or field trip, start a small garden, and have them learn to grow and take care of it.
I teach elementary kids how to start seeds, care for the seedlings, transplant them to our edible school yard, weed and care for their growing plants, harvest, and then we learn how to make something nutritious with their harvest. To watch them get so excited to get their hands dirty and run out and pick a tomato or pea pod to eat right off the vine is an incredible thing to see!
Need some help? Here are a few ideas to celebrate National Nutrition Month!
Start a snack garden- It doesn’t have to be a farmette or gigantic overwhelming garden. You can actually grow most veggies in pots. Sit down with your little ones and see what they would like to try to eat and grow. The easy ones are tomatoes, peas, peppers, cucumbers, and herbs. You can actually start your pot with a tomato plant and grow the basil around the base of the tomato plant if you really want to save space! Use a large pot, add some soil, drop in a couple of seeds or to make it even easier buy an established plant at a hardware store. Place in full sun, make sure to give it a little water when the soil gets dry and watch it grow together. Once you plant starts to fruit. At snack time send the kids out picking. Come in and dip into some humus, sunflower butter, Greek yogurt mixed with herbs and a little lemon juice.
Get them in the kitchen with Kids Stir– I just found these guys and it’s so cool! I love it! It’s a monthly box that shows up in your mailbox each month. You can set your membership to your liking, but each month’s box is completely different. They contain different cooking exercises and everything you need for the activity in the box. So I’ve seen one called build a fish bowl. It has the directions, a poster of a fish bowl, and you get a cookie cutter shaped as a fish and the recipe to make the cookies, crackers, etc. You can always change recipes to be healthier too. It gets kids in the kitchen cooking and getting hands on with their foods. They love it! I can’t get my kids out of the kitchen, so much I can never get dinner cooked because they want to help so much! Check out their site, super cute! Or if you’re super creative make up your own ideas!
Skip the Fast Food Joints & Make your own at Home- The fast food joints are the worst, between the high caloric food, low-grade meats, all the hands touching and retouching your food, not to mention how awful and sluggish you feel after eating it! Have “fast food” at home! Dinner doesn’t have to take 2+ hours to make every night most meals can take 20 minutes from prep to table. Some times you just have to multitask! Have kid-friendly and fast food nights with a healthy twist. Make your own taco bar, put each ingredient in separate bowls and let everyone build their own tacos. You can get frozen pizza dough balls, let them thaw, knead them out a bit and let everyone make their own separate pizzas! Choose a good mozzarella cheese, make your own sauce with just tomato paste, olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper, and then load up the veggies for everyone to pile high on their pizza. Make breakfast for dinner one night a week. I actually just started doing this and kids think it so fun and they get super excited. Waffles, omelets, pancakes, etc are all fast and healthier options then running to the closest burger joint,plus the kids can get involved and help in the kitchen with these too!
Here’s to a celebrating National Nutrition Month and to a healthier kids!