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As the relaxing summer months start to wind down, the hustle and bustle of back to school can mean that getting healthy meals and snacks on the table is about to become a bit more challenging. Parents have tremendous influence over kids’ habits, especially from a young age, so it is worth the effort to give them a healthy start as soon as possible. Here are some suggestions to help make your trips to the grocery store as smooth as possible, and ways to include kids in the process:
The perimeter of the store is where fresh food is found—think produce, dairy, meat, and fish. Look for items that have only one ingredient (e.g., celery, apples, or ground turkey),and choose organic if possible to help minimize exposure to harmful chemicals and additives. When snacking as a family, turn to nutritious (yet tasty) options like carrot sticks, cucumber slices, and red bell pepper strips, and serve with a dip, such as hummus or yogurt dressing. For sandwiches, roast your own poultry or grass-fed meat. You can do this in advance by freezing the fresh protein into portions and using as needed.
Nutritional labels reveal a lot of helpful information about the types of ingredients you are putting into your body. The main one to try and avoid is sugar. Sugar rears its head in most kid-centric foods—for example, squeezable apple sauce, ready-to-eat lunches, and juice boxes—in various forms, such as fructose, corn syrup, cane sugar, and glucose. In excess, sugar can lead to obesity, which puts a child at risk for developing significant health problems, both now and in the future.
There are some products that are slightly more expensive—but for good reasons. Quality fats and superfoods, such as hempseed, nuts and nut butters, matcha, chia seeds, nut oils, flaxseed, and dried berries are not only easy to incorporate into meals and snacks but they also pack a ton of nutrition into every bite. Apple or banana slices go great with a dab of almond butter and then rolled in hempseed and raisins. Combine nuts, seeds, coconut chips, and dried berries in a zip-close bag for a quick, energizing trail mix. When it comes to our health, the price tag can be worth it for both ourselves and our families.
Children are never too young to start learning how to make healthy decisions. Involve your kids in the shopping trip, starting with the grocery list. Lay out ground rules ahead of time—or turn the trip into a game! Have your child find a new vegetable or fruit from the produce department to try, or send him/her on a special mission to find yellow vegetables. Explain why some foods are healthier than others, and show him/her how to read labels. Once your child learns to enjoy the process of choosing, preparing, and eating healthy foods, good health is the natural result.