Summer is winding down, and for most school-aged children and their parents, this is the beginning of the school year and it’s time to start packing those lunches and snacks.
Providing children with healthy meals and a balanced diet can improve their performance and attention span in school. Studies from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reveal that children who lack adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables tend to make lower grades compared to children whose diets incorporate more nutritious foods.
Dietary habits are formed at young ages, and introducing children to healthy food choices early in their lives will assist in establishing good habits and decision-making skills, while also improving their health and preventing disease.
One of the best ways to show children how to make healthy food choices is to start making healthy food choices for yourself and lead by example. It’s important for children to see the adults in their lives making the right decisions regarding their diet and lifestyle, and they will soon follow their lead. Show them that it’s exciting to try new things and make it fun and adventurous.
A simple way to start increasing healthier foods is to replace certain unhealthy foods that the child prefers with a healthier, vegan alternative. Any person who removes something that they enjoy from their diet will naturally crave that food and find it difficult to live without, but replacing it with something similar, but healthier, will ease the transition and minimize the cravings. Most grocery stores offer vegan alternatives for most items like meat, dairy products and baked breads and crackers and many restaurants are now offering vegan options on their menus.
Children also love to get involved in the kitchen, and allowing them to help prepare their own meals will empower and encourage them to be in control of their dietary decisions and make healthier choices. Allow them to assist in the kitchen according to their age and capability. Give them a knife and cutting board and let them help wash and cut fresh fruits and vegetables. Children love to dip their food, and cutting the fruits and vegetables into bite size pieces so they are easy to handle will make it easier for them. It’s also fun to put the vegetables and fruits and place them onto skewers to make fruit and veggie kabobs. They can use the cut veggies as dippers for hummus, guacamole or any other veggie dips or patés.
Keep things simple for them, and allow them to experiment and try new things to keep their meals exciting. Most children notice what others are bringing to school in their lunches, so making their snacks and meals colorful and fun will draw interest from other kids and they might even be setting a new, healthier example for others to follow.
Article by Andrea Nison