Jeanette Lamb, Special to Poughkeepsie Journal Published 7:00 a.m. ET Sept. 10, 2019
With just 3 ingredients, you can make the tastiest summer treats — healthy mango popsicles! Melissa Rorech, Reviewed
It’s well established that good nutrition fuels not only good health but better school performance. When schedules get busy and we are crunched for time, or money is tight, food and nutrition can be one of the first things that suffers. But there is a strong case for taking the time to think about how we set ourselves up for eating well during the school year.
Here are some ideas to think about as we embark on another year of school and life:
Have a plan. Healthy meals don’t just happen. By creating a weekly or monthly menu that is planned out in advance, you ultimately will save time and money during the week. If this seems like a lot of work, consider this information from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (Volume 47, Issue 6, December 2014, Pages 796-802): “Spending less than one hour/day on food preparation was associated with significantly more money spent on food away from home and more frequent use of fast food restaurants compared to those who spent more time on food preparation.”
Include a lean protein at every meal when planning your menu. Protein has an essential role in building and maintaining muscle and tissues in your body as well as helping you to feel full. Feeling full and satisfied at meals can lead to less food-seeking between meals. Think unprocessed protein sources such as beans, peas, lentils, lean poultry, seafood, lean beef, unflavored yogurt, nuts and nut butters, and eggs.
Once you have a menu, make a list from the menu and shop for what is on the list. You’ve likely heard this one before, but it bears repeating as it is one of the best ways to save money and avoid having foods that never get eaten in your pantry or fridge. If shopping is an afterthought, you are more likely to succumb to the very colorful and crafty product advertisements designed to get you to buy.
Include in-season plant foods in your menu. If you are looking to eat healthier and save money, most foods in season will be less pricey and fresher. Shop at farmers markets whenever possible, supporting local farms and your own health. Plant-based eating is popular because it is an excellent way to eat for disease prevention and maintaining healthy weight. The nation’s obesity epidemic continues to impact children; the most recent 2015-2016 Centers for Disease Control report states obesity now affects 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the United States. Nearly 32% of children and adolescents are either overweight or obese. (Obesity is defined as a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile of the CDC sex-specific BMI for age growth charts.)
Choose unprocessed foods over processed as much as possible. A new study by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease compared an unprocessed diet to an ultra-processed one and found people consumed more calories per day on the ultra-processed foods diet (sugary drinks, chips, ice cream, chocolate, cookies, breakfast cereal, chicken nuggets) compared to unprocessed foods (fresh or frozen vegetables, beans, fruits, poultry, seafood, nuts, seeds). More calories meant more weight gained.
Make your own convenience foods. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, “Greater amount of time spent on home food preparation was associated with indicators of higher diet quality, including significantly more frequent intake of vegetables, salads and fruit.”
Working adults and parents often rely on convenience foods over home-prepared foods to make hectic days easier. Having a plan and taking some time each week to prepare some healthy convenience foods will go a long way to improve the nutritional quality of your child’s diet. Some simple tips:
- Have fruits washed and available for convenient snacking.
- Make single-serving sizes of snacks like trail mix.
- Have hardboiled eggs, guacamole and/or hummus with vegetables and nachos for dipping on hand.
- Have salad fixings on hand, or better yet prepare Mason jar salads in advance for a convenient grab for meals or snacks.
Make water your children’ s primary beverage.
Limit daily screen time. A recent report in The Atlantic reported “teens who often abandon sports or fitness pursuits in favor of a stronger connection to their tech devices usually results in more sedentary behavior.” More sedentary behavior is linked to overweight and obesity.
Make sure your child gets adequate sleep. Inadequate sleep is linked to increased appetite that can increase risk for obesity.
Keep kids active in sports and activities.
Don’t use food as a reward.
With some planning and preparation, we can help to set kids up for a healthy, productive school year!
Try this easy recipe for a fruit smoothie that can become part of a healthful back-to-school diet that takes little time to make.
Jeanette Lamb is a registered dietitian at Vassar Brothers Medical Center.
1/2 cup milk or dairy-free milk
1/2 cup yogurt or dairy-free yogurt
2 cups fresh or frozen fruit (mangoes, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, etc.)
1 small banana (For frozen, peel banana, cut in half and put in freezer at least an hour before.)
Put all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth. The above ingredients are just a suggestion. The possibilities for adding fruits and vegetables are virtually endless. Try different combinations and see what you and your kids like. Make-ahead tip: Use a Mason jar with lid and place in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
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