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It’s kids eat right month

Planning meals ahead of time can improve your health while saving you time and money.

Getting children involved in planning and cooking meals can have benefits for the whole family too. August is Kids Eat Right Month, a new nutrition education, information sharing and action campaign created by Kids Eat Right, an initiative of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and its Foundation.

Kids Eat Right Month spotlights healthy nutrition and active lifestyles for children and families, offering simple steps to help families shop smart, cook healthy, and eat right.

Tips to shop smart, cook healthy and eat right:

Shop smart. As I cruise around the local grocery stores I can see how some kids have a big influence on family food spending, but as a family shopper, you control what makes it home. Some ways to get the family involved with grocery shopping are to create the grocery list together and get food-group snacks they like such as fruit, crunchy vegetables, string cheese, yogurt or pudding cups. Shop supermarket aisles together and read food labels aloud. Compare nutrition facts labels to make healthier choices. Review the serving size and total number of servings in the container. This takes time and patience but it is a great learning experience for everyone involved.

Cook healthy. Involve children in the cutting, mixing and preparation of meals. Kids love control and creativity. Any way they can be included in meal planning or preparing will increase the likelihood of a successful dinner. Younger kids can put plates on the table, pour beverages, or fold napkins. Older kids can get ingredients, wash produce, mix, and stir. (Remember to be patient, now.)

You could even have your teens be the cook for a night and you could be their helper in the kitchen. Another way to make meal time more appealing is to add variety to staple dishes by varying the ways you cook them. Grill or broil the chicken you usually fry or bake, mash the potatoes you typically cook in the microwave, and steam the vegetables you normally sauté.

Eat right. Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day’s experiences with one another. Dinner-time conversations have a huge impact, as you share ideas and pass along family values. Pick topics that are positive and allow everyone to talk.

TV and mobile devices can create distractions that can throw off any family’s mealtime. Declare mealtime a TV and phone-free zone, except for emergencies. While finding time to enjoy meals together gets trickier for families every day, research continues to demonstrate that family meals are a great way to promote healthy family eating habits. Putting together a family meal does not have to be complicated. Let everyone choose a favorite item and build simple, delicious meals around them. Just think of the beautiful memories you are making with your children. They are not only learning life skills but are developing confidence too.

Encourage kids to get active. Reward and encourage kids’ physical activity by providing praise, activity-related equipment, games or outings. Plan time to get 60 minutes of physical activity daily, which can be accomplished in shorter bursts throughout the day for at least 10 minutes at a time. Get active as a family and play interactive games, get up early to walk the dog, head to the park, do chores together and turn on music, or play backyard games such as tag, catch, or net ball sports. Reduce screen time by taking TVs out of kids’ bedrooms and only have them in common rooms. Most importantly, parents and caregivers need to be positive role models. Make time to eat healthy and be active and they will follow your good example.

Learn more about how to cook healthy, eat right, and be active at www.eatright.org/resources/for-kids. Source: Lisa Franzen-Castle, RD, PhD, Nutrition Specialist