6 Tips to Nourish Kids
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Below you’ll find part three of my four-part National Nutrition Month series.
When you think of nourishing kids, you think about food first, right? While it’s important to provide nutrient-rich foods and meals to kids and to also empower them to get involved in the process, nourishing their spirits and their bodies is also vital to raise healthy kids.
Here are 6 expert-approved tips to help you nourish your kids:
Make a weekly plan. “Getting healthy meals on the table for a family is no easy task. My number one tip to do so is meal planning,” says Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, co-author of We Can Cook: Introduce Your Child to the Joy of Cooking with 75 Simple Recipes and Activities. Fishman Levinson plans meals for the week ahead of time for her family (including her twin daughters*, pictured with her in header)—she even shares them on her blog every Monday in Menu Plan Monday. “Planning meals ahead of time helps me stay on track and I hope it inspires others to do the same. The menu plan guides my grocery list, which saves me time on my shopping trips since I know exactly what I need and can avoid getting sidetracked by fancy displays of sale items or samples in various aisles. The menu plan also helps me prep foods in advance and reduce food waste,” she says.
If the idea of planning an entire week’s worth of meals daunts you, set a smaller goal. According to registered dietitian Robin Plotkin, “Asking someone to meal plan for an entire week when they haven’t done it once is overwhelming. I suggest meal planning 2-3 times a week for several weeks in order to get the hang of it.” Plotkin, a culinary nutritionist, says that doing so builds confidence and gives the family a chance to understand the new plan, too.
Start with breakfast: “I eat breakfast with my family every morning,” says registered dietitian Toby Amidor, author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen. According to Amidor, “No matter how busy the morning is, I make sure to sit down with my kids* (pictured above) for even 5 or 10 minutes with a quick breakfast (from smoothies to oatmeal to eggs) and check in with my children to make sure they know I love them and their day is off on the right foot.” Amidor recommends doing this at least several times a week—and I concur! (Find 8 Great Breakfasts here.)
Get kids in the kitchen. “Learning to cook as a family helps you experiment with foods—and that helps boost enjoyment,” says registered dietitian Connie Diekman. “Getting your kids in the kitchen is a way to send a message that cooking is fun and a normal part of everyday life,” according to Amidor. Some of her kids’ favorite things to make include scrambled eggs, muffins, cakes, pancakes, air-popped popcorn, and smoothies.
Keep cooking simple. Fishman Levinson believes you can squash “picky” eating by cooking one meal for the whole family. “Stop being a short-order cook!” she advises. Because picky eating is a common nutrition issue that arises in families, especially with young kids, Fishman Levinson says that many parents give in to it by making separate meals for those children and resorting to feeding their children “kid-friendly” food. “In my experience, this solution only prolongs the eating issues and doesn’t move toward fixing them,” she says. As an alternative, Fishman Levinson suggests making one meal for the whole family—a meal that includes at least one element that you know your choosy child will like. She also suggests that parents not call their kids “picky.” “The label becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she adds.
Close the kitchen. “In our home, we close the kitchen after dinner and dessert to limit nibbling and grazing,” says Milton Stokes, PhD, MPH, RD. The exceptions to Stokes’ rule are water or for fruit. “When the kids (or grown ups ….) want an extra homemade chocolate chip cookie, we direct traffic toward fruit. We also keep the fruit at eye level (our freezer is on the bottom; fridge on top), so it’s the first thing anyone sees!,” he adds.
Make activity a family affair. “It’s vital to spend more time as a family enjoying physical activities whether that is walking, biking, swimming or dancing,” says Diekman, the Director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.
*Fishman Levinson’s kids are Charlotte (4) and Sabrina (4); Amidor’s kids are Schoen (13), Ellena (10) and Micah (8).
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