Nutrition should be a priority in your family any time of the year, but since March is National Nutrition Month, it’s a good time to take a look at what your family is eating and how they are eating.
Almost everyone these days knows that whole foods are healthiest and processed foods are a no-no. But it’s a lot easier to put fresh foods on the table in the summer from our own vegetable gardens or from Abington-area farmers who have individual roadside stands or co-op stands at places like Hillside Park.
Even though we’re craving that juicy beefsteak tomato or corn on the cob that we love in August, the fact that it’s March and there’s snow on the ground isn’t permission for unhealthy eating. We are fortunate that our supermarkets and specialty stores in and around Clarks Summit offer fresh organic foods all year long.
However, it is not enough to serve nutritious food. Good eating habits are just as important as the food itself. For our active Abington families, being on the go is the rule rather than the exception. But there is still hope for healthy eating without putting too much work into it.
In my family, we have always lived by two rules: Make sure everybody has breakfast, and eat dinner together as a family as much as possible. If your kids go to school on an empty stomach, they won’t be able to concentrate as well. If, for some reason, they miss the chance for breakfast at home, the Abington Heights schools offer a breakfast option.
Eating dinner together can be a challenge. If your family is like mine was, everybody is off in different directions at 6 p.m. But making an effort is worth it. When my family slowed down long enough to sit down, chew their food properly, and savor the meal – and each other’s company – their healthy days outnumbered their sick days. And their emotional health was better, too.
Since I’ve been a working mom most of my life, I learned to often prepare meals ahead of time on weekends that we could reheat at dinner time during the week. And, letting the kids participate in food prep helped them enjoy their food more and learn more about healthy meal choices – in addition to helping their tired mom.
Here are some other nutritious ideas from familydoctor.org:
■ Serve food in small portions.
■ Reward children with praise, not food.
■ Do not demand or reward “a clean plate.” Let your children ask for more if they are still hungry.
■ Eat more vegetables and fresh fruits. Aim for a total of 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day.
■ Eat more whole grains. Examples include oats, brown rice, rye and whole-wheat pasta. Try to eat at least three ounces of whole grains each day.
■ Drink plenty of fluids. Choose water, low-fat or nonfat milk and low-calorie beverages.
■ Read nutrition labels.
■ Bake, broil or grill foods.
■ Avoid cooking with butter or vegetable oil. Use healthier versions like olive, canola or sunflower oil.
■ Choose snacks that provide nutrients and energy.
■ Ask your doctor about vitamin supplements for you and your children.
Teri Lyon is a mom, grandmom and freelance writer who lives in Glenburn Township with her cat.