When our first-born was an infant, I remember hearing about fellow mothers who took the time to make their own baby food from scratch, cooking fresh vegetables, pureeing the cooked produce and carefully placing it in ice cube trays to freeze for future use instead of relying on the commercially processed food found in a jar. As a health-conscious person, I felt a sense of admiration for these women who took the time to complete such a loving and worthwhile task. At the same time, I felt a tremendous sense of guilt that I had neither the energy nor the motivation to perform such an act. Did this make me a bad mother? Would my failure to take on this type of task result in long-term adverse health issues for my child?
Fortunately, I eventually came to the realization that my stress over the matter was more detrimental to my own health and my family’s well-being than the effects of a serving of store-bought mashed sweet potatoes. Since then, I have learned to strike a balance between what is ideal and what is practical as it relates to matters of healthy eating.
Good nutrition is important for our children’s growth and development and helps them establish good eating habits to grow into healthy, confident adults. However, for today’s busy family, it can be challenging to find a happy medium between eating healthy and finding the time and energy to do so.
Here are some suggestions to get your kids on the right track and to help them establish healthy eating habits during the school day:
Make Smart Choices.
Filling your child’s lunch with pre-packaged items may be super convenient; however, keep in mind that these processed foods are loaded with sodium and preservatives. Use these items in moderation. When purchasing them, choose items with lower salt, sugar and fat contents, such as baked chips, pretzels or low-fat crackers.
Provide a well-balanced meal that includes raw vegetables and/or fresh seasonal fruit. If fresh is not an option, include dried fruits such as raisins, cherries or cranberries. When purchasing canned fruit, be sure it’s packed in 100% fruit juice as opposed to syrup.
Homemade goodies are a great lunchtime treat that can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer. Baked treats such as oatmeal raisin cookies, wheat or fruit muffins can be pulled from the freezer that morning and will thaw by lunchtime.
Consider alternatives to pre-packaged side dishes. For example, make a batch of air-popped popcorn the night before and place it in a container with either a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or a dash of cinnamon and sugar.
Think Outside of The Box.
Well-balanced does not have to be conventional. In other words, it is perfectly OK to serve a lunch without a sandwich. Lunchmeat rolls or sliced pepperoni and cheese sticks are good alternatives. So are salads, or even last night’s leftover baked chicken or whole wheat pasta packaged in a container that keeps food warm.
Be sure to involve your children in the process. Educate them on the importance of making healthy choices as well as the concepts of balance and moderation. The good eating habits they establish today can make a big difference in their future health and well-being.