Healthy Eating Made Easy
As we all stay home more than usual, it’s easier than ever to reach for the junk food cabinet, but healthy eating at home is possible. Making better food choices is easy when you follow these guidelines created with families and picky kids in mind.
Opt For Healthy Snacks
Sometimes you just need a little something between your three daily meals. The good news is nutritionists say it’s fine to have occasional snacks. This is especially true for younger children, because their smaller bellies get full faster.
The key is to make your snacks healthy. Instead of eating empty calories like cookies or chips, look for alternatives like popcorn, yogurt with fruit, cheese and veggies or homemade pizzas on whole-grain English muffins.
To make things easier, have snacks prepared so you (or your kids) can grab them on the go. Easy-prep snacks include:
- Cucumbers with low fat ranch dressing
- Pretzels (divided into individual servings)
- Smoothies made with low fat yogurt
Make snack prep a family activity by letting kids pick items to create a trail mix. Keep the servings small and include goodies like:
- Multigrain or whole grain cheerios
- Small pretzels
- Mini marshmallows
- Mini chocolate chips
When it comes to beverages, water is king. Opt for water or flavored water instead of soda or sports drinks like Gatorade.
Get Your Veggies
What do you do when your child refuses to eat their vegetables? You get creative! There are many ways to disguise vegetables in meals they will eat. Try these:
- Add carrots to meatloaf
- Grind up squash in spaghetti
- Blend spinach into smoothies
Offering them choices can also be beneficial. Give the option of adding cheese sauce to broccoli, or ask if they’d rather have a different vegetable like green beans instead. If they still won’t eat veggies, offer them fruit.
Letting kids help plan and cook meals can also get them more interested in different foods and they’ll be more likely to eat what they were involved in preparing.
Have Family Dinners
Eating together can improve family health and bonding, especially now when things are different. Make dinner an experience. Instead of distracted eating in front of the TV or your phone, spend time talking about how the day was or what you’re thankful for.
Before or after dinner can be a great time to get in some activity as a family. Try going for a walk, swimming or riding bikes together. Children need at least an hour of activity a day and at least 30 minutes is recommended for adults, so use this quality time to get moving!
Boost Your Immune System
To give your immune system a boost, focus on Vitamin C, Zinc, probiotics and super-foods like spinach. It’s rich in magnesium for healthy blood pressure, muscles and bones.
Tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers, spinach and onions are high in Vitamin C which aids in iron absorption, helps heal cuts and wounds and works to keep teeth and gums healthy.
Avoid talking about weight or diets in front of your children as this can lead to body image issues, eating disorders and loss of confidence. Instead, focus on discussing the health benefits of making good food choices, like improved health and better performance in school and sports.
Try these recipes for healthy eating ideas!
Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal
This make-ahead dish is handy to heat up and have for a quick healthy breakfast or snack. You can add a touch more brown sugar if you like it sweeter and a splash of milk for more creaminess.
1½ cups fat-free milk or soy milk
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup egg substitute or egg whites
1 tablespoon melted trans-fat-free margarine
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups chopped apples
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- In a small bowl mix the milk, brown sugar, egg substitute/whites, margarine and cinnamon.
- In a larger bowl combine the oats and the baking powder.
- Pour the wet mixture into the bowl with the oats; add the apples and stir to combine.
- Spoon the mixture into a 8-by-8-inch pan coated with cooking spray and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until top is firm and a toothpick comes out clean in the center.
Serving size: 1 square
Calories: 160; Total fat: 3g; Saturated fat: < 1g; Sodium: 80mg; Total Carbohydrate: 30g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugars: 18g; Protein 4g; Vitamin A: 248 IU; Vitamin C: 1.5 mg; Calcium: 56mg.
Easy Pasta Salad with Chicken and Vegetables
Are you ready for a backyard barbecue? This recipe is a perfect, hearty side dish to serve!
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 6-ounce can chicken breast packed in water, drained and rinsed
½ cup balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
16 ounces uncooked whole-wheat pasta
1 10-ounce bag frozen mixed vegetables
- Bring a gallon-sized pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
- Two minutes before pasta is finished cooking, add in the frozen mixed vegetables. Once pasta is cooked and vegetables are tender, drain into colander.
- While pasta and vegetables are cooking, gently mix the rinsed and drained beans, chicken and salad dressing in a large bowl until combined.
- Add the pasta and vegetables to the bowl and mix with the beans, chicken and salad dressing. Serve salad warm or cold.
- Garbanzo beans are also known as chickpeas. Feel free to substitute any type of bean you like for the garbanzo beans; or, use tuna in place of canned chicken breast. Try using your favorite salad dressing flavor in place of balsamic vinaigrette.
- When selecting which shape pasta to use, opt for smaller pasta such as rotini, macaroni or shells, which are similar in size to the vegetables and chicken. This will allow for better mixture of ingredients and dressing.
Serving size: 1 cup
Calories: 315; Total fat: 9g; Sat. fat: 1.5g; Chol.: 14mg; Sodium: 235mg; Carb.: 46g; Fiber 5g; Sugars: 2g; Protein 15g