Health and wellness are always among the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s trying to eat better, exercise more or just turn off the TV once in a while, it seems every adult has a health goal they’re working on. Kids, on the other hand, might resolve to eat more gummy worms or beat the next level of their video game. However, when it comes to kids, healthy eating is pivotal during their developmental years. Studies show students who eat adequate amounts of fruit, vegetables, protein and fiber, with less calorie intake from fat, do better on tests than those who consume more foods high in salt and saturated fats. So, it’s up to parents to keep healthy choices top of mind and teach our kids at a young age how to nourish their bodies and minds in order to succeed in school and ultimately, help set them up for a healthy future.
That is why Revolution Foods, a company striving to transform citywide wellness on a national scale by providing two million healthy school and community meals nationwide every week, has shared some tips to help prioritize healthy eating and improve your kids’ nutrition in the new year.
Eat breakfast, do better
You’ve always heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the science backs it up. Studies show students who eat breakfast are more alert, have better concentration, maintain a healthy weight and reach higher levels of achievement.
“Breakfast has been proven time and time again to have a very high direct impact on academic outcomes for kids,” says Kristin Groos Richmond, CEO and co-founder of Revolution Foods. “It is a crucial meal to set students up for success.”
For a healthy morning meal, avoid sugary breakfast cereals, and if you’re pressed for time, choose better-for-you options that can be taken on the go like a banana or an apple paired with nut or seed butter for a healthy dose of protein, fat and fruit.
Get kids in the kitchen
The best way to get kids excited about healthy eating is to get them involved. Have your kids help you in the kitchen as you prepare healthy meals. Older kids can help chop vegetables while younger chefs can help with stirring or wash fresh ingredients.
Beyond the kitchen, take your kids to a local farmer’s market (or the supermarket if a farmer’s market isn’t available) and encourage them to taste, smell and try new fruits and vegetables. It’s all about the experience, and a fun day of walking around the market can help build a positive association with healthy eating.
Stock up on smart options
It’s hard to eat junk food if you never buy it. When shopping for snacks, avoid processed foods and instead stock up on healthy options like whole wheat crackers, celery and apples. Chef Clifton Lyles, VP of Culinary Excellence at Revolution Foods, recommends nuts, “like almonds or cashews which have good, sweet flavor and crunchy texture that most kids like, and they’re packed with healthy fats.” By keeping junk food out of the pantry and supplying your family with healthy snacks instead, you can reinforce healthy eating habits even between meals.
Expand their palates
Kids are notoriously picky eaters, but they’re also more adventurous than we often give them credit for. To help expand your child’s horizons, experiment with kid-friendly spices and seasonings like fresh thyme, parsley and light garlic. Also try getting fruits and veggies that are in-season so you get the best-tasting and most affordable food available.
“For me, it’s really about exposure,” says Kirsten Saenz Tobey, Chief Impact Officer and co-founder of Revolution Foods. “I think the more foods kids are exposed to and given a chance to try, the more they will learn to have a broad and varied diet.”
If all else fails, boost your kids’ veggie intake by incorporating vegetables into the familiar dishes they already love, like cauliflower mac and cheese.
Practice what you preach
Children learn from the examples set by adults. So, if you want your child to be a fan of healthy eating and know they’ll choose healthier options on their own, you’re going to have to show them how it’s done.
“We don’t have junk food in our house really, so pretty much all the eating options are healthy ones,” says Saenz Tobey. “My husband and I eat a healthy, balanced diet, and we make an effort to try new things regularly with our three kids.”
Prepare and eat healthy foods whenever possible to help instill healthy habits in your children. Introduce food and nutrition into other aspects of your family’s routine to get them excited about eating real food. For example, skip delivery pizza on movie night and create your own instead using fresh produce and healthy veggies.