Healthy eating tips for busy families
Families are racing against the clock every day to get everyone fed, clean and where they need to be. It can be tempting to grab a sugary treat or swing by a drive-thru as we make our way through the week, but registered dietitian Lisa Money said families don’t have to sacrifice healthy eating because of hectic schedules. She offered some quick healthy eating tips for busy families who want to be healthy but just don’t have the time to spend on cooking.
Start with breakfast.
“To be prepared, try to plan ahead and buy foods for breakfast,” Money said. “Studies show kids do much better if they have a breakfast because it improves their attention and memory.”
Here are three types of breakfast that are easy to grab and go.
- Egg muffins. Try an egg muffin – sort of like an omelet baked in the oven – and pair it with low-fat turkey sausage and an English muffin. You can even add a little spinach in the egg. It’s a great way to take in more protein which helps kids feel full in the morning.
- Whole grain waffles. Whole grain fills up kids’ tummies, so they don’t feel hungry later. You can top their waffle with almond butter and banana or low-fat cream cheese. If you’re in a hurry, a waffle is easy to wrap up with some aluminum foil and eat in the car on the way to school.
- Overnight oats. This is a whole grain option you can prepare ahead of time. Just fill a mason jar about halfway with whole grain oats, milk, Greek yogurt, little bit of vanilla or cinnamon and fresh fruit and put it in the refrigerator overnight.
“For kids, you don’t have to fill up a whole jar as they may end up getting too full and you’ll waste a lot of it, so we recommend using half the jar for most kids,” Money said. “This is a great breakfast for moms and dads on the go, too.”
Eat a healthy school lunch
Whether your child eats at school or packs a lunch, Money said it’s easy to make healthy choices.
“One tip I have for parents is to take advantage of technology,” she said. “Go online, look at your school’s lunch menu and let your kids pick one or two days to have school lunch. When kids eat at school, they get more protein, fruits and vegetables.”
Here are some tips if you’re packing a lunch.
- Keep portion sizes in mind. One tool you can use is the MyPlate resource.
“It’s important to remember that children’s portion sizes are smaller,” Money said. “If they’re in elementary school, their serving size may be 1/4 of a cup of fruit and half a sandwich. Be sure to look at what serving size is recommended, so your child won’t be so full from the sandwich that they don’t eat their fruit. Both are very important to help them get through the rest of the day.”
- Try a snack box. When you’re packing lunch for your kids, the meal doesn’t always have to be a sandwich. There’s no right or wrong way, so just consider your child’s taste.
“One snack I like is a bag of Figgy Pops,” Money said. “They have figs and pistachios which will give kids a little bit of protein from the nuts, as well as whole grains plus the fruit.”
- Use proper storage. A packed lunch can sit for hours after it’s made, so it’s important to store the food at a proper temperature. Use ice packs or an insulated jar if you want to pack soup for your child.
- Pack a snack for after school. Kids need to eat something about every three to four hours, so snack times after school are important.
“One snack I like are ‘walking s’mores’ which is a bag of chocolate chip Teddy Grahams and mini marshmallows,” Money said. “They have whole grains, a little bit of chocolate taste and then marshmallows. This might remind kids of their summer campfire days.”
Don’t forget family dinners!
“Finding time to sit down to a family dinner can be difficult, but if children eat with their family at least five times a week, they have better grades and more confidence to face life’s challenges,” Money said.
You can find more information on fad diets, eating to support your fitness journey and healthy eating tips for busy families right here on Flourish.
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