CLEVELAND, Ohio — Fall is fast approaching, and that means kids are returning to their classrooms — and to their busy extracurricular schedules.
This can be a challenge as parents juggle their own schedules to meet the demands of after-school athletic practices and other activities. On top of that, how do parents make sure their children are getting the nutrition they need to fuel all of that busyness?
Kathy Johnson, associate director of registered dietitians and group coaching at United Healthcare, recently offered suggestions on getting school-age kids and their parents to ensure a healthy fall season. Dr. Gary Grosel of United Healthcare Ohio also weighed in.
Grosel suggests combining protein and fiber for healthy snacking. Doing so not only makes for a power snack, it’s as easy as serving whole-grain crackers with hummus.
Johnson has other ideas in case your kids aren’t feeling adventurous.
“I would say get your kids involved in planning the snacks that help you tenfold,” she said. “Because they feel like they have control over what they eat. But then you pick foods that they like.
“Sometimes, you pair them with something they might be iffy on. If your kid loves salsa, have them try dipping carrots, celery, green pepper or something healthy in the salsa, because if they’re drawn to the salsa, they might be more likely to try something healthy with it.
“Protein is always good for families on the go because it makes you feel satiated,” she said.
Johnson also suggests doing weekend preparations for the week; for example, taking a Sunday afternoon to plan the week out and execute it by preparing the snacks and using baggies to store them. That will reduce a significant amount of time when running from activity to activity.
It’s also another way to avoid being tempted to snatch a candy bar or protein bar, which sometimes contains lots of sugar, off the kitchen counter.
According to a United Healthcare news release, another good source of protein could be a hard-boiled egg. Cheese sticks also are popular with some kids and their parents. Yogurt with your child’s favorite fresh berries or fruits blended throughout could be a favorable alternative.
It’s all about finding the right food fit and using some creativity.
Whatever snack you plan to package for on-the-go, be mindful of how much you eat. It’s easy to eat past your point of fullness consistently. Although, figuring out a way to teach that concept to young adults can be challenging.
“We can teach kids mindfulness, but I don’t know how,” Johnson said. “I would probably say tell your child to take your time eating your snack. But I still don’t think that generally translates very well for young people.
“As far as adults, (ask yourself) are you hungry right now? And if the answer is yes, because you have the symptoms or physical symptoms of being hungry, then OK, go ahead and eat and take the time to upgrade.
“Be fully present with eating, so that means touching your food. What does it feel like? Look at it. Do you like the color of it? Then, take your full first bite, enjoy every minute and notice the sensations,” she said.
“It seems so simple to do that. But often, we burn through our meals and you don’t even barely taste it. So, when you take the time to slow down and feel all of that, it can make a huge difference in the amount you eat.”
Grosel says it’s important to enjoy your favorite food indulgence from time to time. Slow down and gather around the dining room table and have that tray of tacos.
“You don’t always have to choose carrots and hummus,” he said. “There will be times when you want to indulge in something salty or sweet, and that’s OK (especially at parties or holidays).
“Give yourself some leeway, and you can always return to the healthy track tomorrow. Healthy eating is a sum of our weekly choices, not just one day.”