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Back to School Healthy Eating for Your Family

Posted Sep 28 2011 11:17am
So now that the first few weeks of school have swung by for your kids and the excitement has settled, it's time to really start focusing on a sustainable healthy eating plan for you and your kids.
Having to return to balancing your job and your children's homework, pick-ups, drop-offs, and after school life can be tough on you. I have seen so many wonderful mom's and dad's pack a healthy lunch for their child and then completely forget about themselves, nourishing themselves on whatever they can find. No wonder these poor parents feel tired and stressed! If we don't give our bodies an adequate amount of nutrients in the form of whole foods (those protein powders and power bars do not count as food or nutrients), our bodies begin to rebel and we feel exhausted, foggy, and fatigued.
Stay on top of it all and follow these tips for a more successful and sane return to routine:

1. Plan!! I can't stress this enough. Even though I don't have children yet, my husband and I sit down every Sunday morning and plan the meals for the week, including lunches, leftovers, and nights out. We then shop for most of the items Sunday afternoon (some of the fresh produce we buy as the week progresses just for freshness sake).  On the weeks we don't plan? My body feels it since we rely on whatever is at hand and sometimes take-out. If you have kids, involve them in the planning. Let them pick a day that they get to choose what's for dinner. This way they get interested in and learn the importance of home-cooking.2. Cook once, eat twice:  If you're going to cook, cook a lot. Then divvy up the leftovers for lunch or another dinner. For example, if you're making chicken, make extra to then add to a salad for lunch the next day. If you're making turkey burgers, make 2-3 extra to then crumble into tacos for another night. You've done all the prep and the cooking, get more mileage out of it!3. Make a shopping list: I live in New York City, and I either walk or take the subway home from the grocery store. No car. This means I buy what I can carry, which keeps me on track. The idea of carrying 4-5 heavy bags prevents me from making browse purchases (you know, when you roam the aisles browsing and pick up things you "might" need.) My mom lives in the suburbs and has a car. So she tends to browse purchase a lot because the bags just go from the cart to the car. Avoid this by making a shopping list and sticking to it. Giving yourself a time limit at the grocery store also helps, so that when you're in the milk section, you're not stopping to think if you also need the ice creams and puddings, but rather heading to whatever is next on your list.4. Make a list of healthy snacks: Edamame, Celery sticks with peanut butter, fruit, hummus and veggies... Make a list and have these items on hand either to give to your kids after school or to yourself at work.  When we're hungry, we don't think of the healthiest foods first, so having a visual aide helps tremendously. It also prevents us from snacking on the birthday cake left in the staff lounge!5. Stay hydrated: Dehydration is a big cause of cravings which can lead to mindless eating. Buy a refillable water bottle and set a goal for how much you will drink throughout the day. There is no set rule for how much water one should consume, as this depends on body size, diet, and activity level. But it's safe to say that increasing the amount you drink will be beneficial. Do the same for your kids and let them pick out a fun bottle for themselves.6. Scope out the healthy options if you're buying:  Packing your lunch and your children's lunch is really the best option, in which case I say prep the night before so you are not rushing in the morning. If you are buying lunch, find healthy options in your work cafeteria or nearby restaurants. And remember that just because you're buying doesn't mean you need to "treat" yourself. In terms of your kids, scan their lunch menu and allow them to buy lunch on a day that's relatively healthy. 7. Remember that dinner time is family time: Our culture has gotten into the mindset that "relaxing" means sitting and doing nothing, and so we tend to see dinner prep and eating as chores and rush through them in order to "relax". Some of the best moments in life happen in the kitchen and around the dinner table, so take back that time for you and your family. Have your kids do their homework at the kitchen table while you cook. Involve your kids in the prep and cooking if they're old enough (my sister is SUPER at this!!). Children pick up eating habits at home, so if they see their parents cooking, they will likely grow up understanding the benefit and joy of it. Cooking is part of family life, so embrace it, considering you CHOSE to have a family. And think about what you would be doing if you weren't cooking and eating with your family. Watching TV? Working? Doesn't sharing some good laughs and stories sound so much better than that?!? And on the days you are exhausted and can't muster the energy to cook, order in or go out for a family dinner night out. A balance between cooking at home and eating out will lead to healthy eating habits all around.
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