Now that children are back in school, it’s a good time for parents to re-think the importance of home meals and nutrition.
Schools are doing an increasingly better job of ensuring that in-school meals and snacks are nutritious. Parents can do the same.
The first step is to spend some time learning a list of the top nutritious foods, the least nutritious foods and the “food pyramid,” a graphic that shows how many of what types of foods a person should ideally eat every day. Several servings of fruits and vegetables (about a half-cup each) should be served, along with one or more servings of grains, cereals, rice and pasta. Protein sources can come from meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, milk or cheese. Fats, oils and sweets should be used sparingly.
We all live in a “busy” world filled with “convenience” foods, so it’s understandable why some families aren’t eating as healthily as they could be. It also takes time and knowledge to adapt to making nutritious meals. Here are some quick tips to get on the road to better nutrition and better health:
1. Cut back on sugary sweets, especially candy bars and soda pops.
2. If convenience is your goal, buy lots of varieties of frozen vegetables and try to serve them at every meal except – possibly – breakfast. Frozen fruit slices are also a good, convenient product to buy.
3. Always have children eat a breakfast, which can be as simple as a slice of toast, a glass of milk or orange juice and/or a bowl of non-sugary cereal.
4. Cut back on the size of each serving. That is the key to weight-loss as well as better nutrition. For example, serve only a few ounces of meat rather than a big slab and then – to fill up – serve a heftier portion of vegetables, fruit and rice, whole-wheat bread or a pasta side dish.
5. Try to introduce as much variety of foods as possible – the more colorful the better. When shopping, buy colorful fresh (or frozen) vegetables: dark green, orange, yellow, red, purple. Those tend to have the highest nutrients.
6. When serving veggies, fresh or frozen, don’t over-do the butter. A tablespoon of butter melted in a bowl of cooked veggies is more than enough.
7. In general, avoid serving too many “white” foods ingredients, such as sugar, salt, flour, fat, frosting.
8. If stores where you shop have nutritional tags for each food, begin to pay attention to them.
9. If at all possible, make time to have the entire family sit down to a nice, relaxing supper. Supper together is a great way to bond and to ensure each member is getting a healthy meal.
10. Learn to cook from scratch and make it a family-fun “adventure.” Preparing a meal from scratch, using fresh ingredients, is the surest way to guarantee good nutrition. And cooking need not be “gourmet.” Some of the best and most nutritious meals, in fact, are simple and easy to prepare. An example would be a lean pork chop fried in very little oil (or baked), green beans, a dollop of mashed potatoes, a glass of low-fat milk and – for dessert – peach slices served in a small dish of ice cream.
Let’s all try to become more nutrition-savvy during this school year. Let’s eat better; let’s get healthier.