By Yvette Quantz RD, CSSD, LDN, CLT, - Ochsner's Eat Fit Acadiana.
Summer days are coming to an end, and now it is time to get back into school day routine. As life transitions from the unstructured days of summer back to meetings, school events, and extra-curricular activities, it can be challenging to keep your family's health and wellbeing top priority.
With so much information available, parents are often overwhelmed on where to even begin. Often trying to do-it-all leads to not achieving any of the health and wellness goals you set for your family. It would be incredible if there were a one-size-fits-all guide to raising kids; that's not the case. Luckily, some universal tips, backed by research, can help you and your family create healthy habits, cultivating a happy lifestyle.
Fostering healthy habits for a strong start to the school year starts at home. With sound information, the right mindset, and a little bit of consistency, you can instill good habits that will last a lifetime. These tips will help guide you and your family for a strong start to the school year!
1. Engage in the Kitchen.
Engaging your kids in the kitchen, especially from a young age, is a fantastic way to build healthy eating habits. While letting your toddler or young child assist with meal prep may seem like a mess waiting to happen, I assure you the benefits are worth it.
Did you know that children who help make dinner are more likely to eat it? Yup, that's right! Have a picky eater? Research has found including picky eaters in meal prep, increases the likelihood they'll sample what you've made -- even the vegetables. It's also a great way to teach kids about nutritious choices in a hands-on environment.
Bonus points! Teaching kids to cook at a young age means you'll end up with a teen who is confident whipping up a healthy meal rather than simply grabbing whatever is convenient!
2. Participate in Regular Playtime.
Unstructured play is perhaps one of the most critical activities for your child's wellbeing and brain development. Not only does playtime keep kids physically active, it also:
● Fosters creativity and intelligence
● Teaches social skills
● Helps children practice conflict resolution
● Using their imagination
● Enhances dexterity
● and so much more!
One thing life in quarantine reminded me of is the importance of free play! It's easy to go overboard with structured activities and extracurriculars. Still, sometimes the best thing you can do is sit back and watch your child's imagination run wild.
3. Limit Technology.
Today, kids are exposed to technology all hours of the day and night. Instead of cutting technology off completely (a near impossibility nowadays), it's essential to teach the tools and skills needed to navigate their time online appropriately. Be involved in your kids' online activities instead of using it to distract them for a few minutes of peace. It's also a prime opportunity to teach that moderation is key, just like anything in life.
4. Offer a Variety of Healthy Options.
If you stock the kitchen with nutrient-dense foods and snacks, your kids will eat them. The same goes for when you're out and about. Having easy access to nutritious and delicious meals makes it easy to eat well. That's why I'm grateful for restaurants like Salad Station! The build your own concept gives my kids the freedom and flexibility to explore a variety of foods while reassuring me they are eating a wholesome meal.
5. Eat Together.
Life can get hectic, especially with kids. Taking the time out of your day for quality family time is an important habit not only for promoting a healthier relationship with food but also nurturing relationships. Gathering everyone at a table, whether at your house or dining out is a way to reconnect with one another after a crazy day. Research has shown eating together as a family, regardless of what time of day, is associated with lower rates of obesity, eating disorders, substance abuse, and depression.
About Eat Fit
Eat Fit is a nonprofit initiative of Ochsner Health System, designed to help the community live their healthiest, strongest lives possible. The team of Eat Fit dietitians works closely with local restaurants, markets and other foodservice establishments to identify and develop dishes that meet the Eat Fit nutritional criteria. These items are identified directly on the menu with the Eat Fit seal of approval, making the healthy choice the easy choice when dining out.
Free to all restaurants and foodservice partners, Eat Fit encourages nutritious choices whether an individual is looking to lose weight, feel better or look better, as well as help to manage health issues including diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure.
With more than 300 partners, Eat Fit has expanded across the state to include Eat Fit Northshore, Eat Fit BR, Eat Fit Acadiana, Eat Fit Shreveport, and Eat Fit Monroe, with support by Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Louisiana.
The Eat Fit team connects deeply within the Eat Fit communities, serving as a resource for all things wellness. Download the Eat Fit smartphone app to find participating restaurants with full nutrition facts of Eat Fit menu items, as well as recipes, community wellness resources, and to connect with a health professional in your area.