Now that you’ve settled into the school year, it’s time to discuss with your children what they can expect regarding meals and snacks at home. A general meeting at home about all expectations can save you any communications breakdowns at the wrong times. Why, you say, is this important?! Let me give you a couple of thoughts.
Setting up guidelines for children on the family outlook regarding meals and snacks can really help you in the long run.
- It will help your child to know that their nutrition, as well as yours, is a part of the family success package. In fact, it is a part of their health and wellness planning.
- Talk openly about the family goals for nutrition and everyone’s role.
- Children also need to be given a chance to choose some of their foods, including snack foods after school, and/or some of the items that go into their lunch.
- Meal selections and preparation can be apart of the evening activities at home for the whole family. Going grocery shopping can also be helpful for family members to do together.
- Identify if budget is going to be an issue in food selections, and if so, find ways of making use of coupons, meat sales, and store brands.
- Always make the food environment a pleasant one.
Some years ago, a great book for parents was written regarding the food environment involving the entire family.
“Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense”, by notable author, Ellyn Satter, of Madison, WI. This book has been revised and updated recently. Ms. Satter was a Dietitian and Psychotherapist who believed firmly that parents should decide “what and when children eat,” and children should decide “how much.” At the time this was landmark work and parents took well to the suggestion. The book is available today in bookstores and on amazon.com.
Food is serious business especially when it involves children and children’s growth. Pam Stuckhart, from St. Louis University, confirms the idea that the “children need to feel inspired at meal time, but it does not mean that every day will be a party atmosphere.” Better yet, that parents realize that making mealtime a family event and not a party may help in staying focused on the real point of feeding kids to the “best of our ability.”
Lastly, I can certainly make the suggestion that we make children’s foods “as simple as possible!” Recently, a young person opened their lunch box at my family’s home, and out came the Doritos and hazelnut-chocolate inspired, Nutella Spread, with breadsticks. Wow! I was surprised that these highly preserved food items would be a part of a normal daily lunch. You would be much better off going with simple lunch made of simple ingredients and made of foods that children can easily digest. It is well known that the more additives and preservatives that are in food, including sugar, will delay the absorption of most good nutrients.
So, make your plans now for a continually successful school year and watch your children thrive!
Written by Rita Larsen, RDN, CD; Guest Contributor
Rita is certified in Positive Psychology, the University of Penn; has a BS in Dietetics from Kansas State University; and an Internship and Masters at the Indiana University Medical Center.
This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.