March is National Nutrition Month and a great time to clean your pantry, according to registered dietitian and chef Michelle Dudash. Parents can use that spring cleaning as an opportunity to get their kids to eat more healthful foods, she said.
“In spring, more produce is back in season and a lot of the favorite foods of kids, like berries and fruits, are becoming more readily available,” Dudash said. “And when it’s seasonal, it’s more affordable too. It’s a great time of year to get back in the swing of things.”
Dudash, who is working with the Walmart Foundation to raise awareness of the importance of breakfast and nutrition education, recently offered suggestions for eating healthfully as a family, from on-the-go snacks to making sure your child is getting enough calcium.
* Stock your pantry with lots of nuts, seeds and dried fruit so you have easy, portable snacks. Mix them with a whole-grain cereal to make your own trail mix. Energy bars make a good snack, too, but parents should look for brands that have ingredients they recognize or can pronounce instead of the more processed products.
* As the weather begins to warm, it’s important to stay hydrated. In addition to drinking plenty of water, eat fruits and vegetables that have high water content, such as watermelon, cucumbers and grapes.
* Many children and adults in the United States fall short of the daily recommended intake of calcium, Dudash said. Low-fat string cheese and yogurt, as well as almonds, beans and leafy greens, can boost your child’s calcium.
* Children are likely to go for what they can see, especially if it looks attractive. So instead of burying the baby carrots and sugar snap peas in the crisper drawer, keep those snacks in clear containers at eye level at the front of the refrigerator. Have a large bowl of fresh fruit out in the kitchen as well, and model good habits by choosing fruits and vegetables over chips or cookies for your snacks.
* Involve your children in the shopping and meal preparation. If they go to the store and choose some fruits and vegetables, then help you cook, they are more invested in the process and more likely to get excited about eating healthful food.
* Make the changes gradually. Eating healthfully doesn’t have to be an all or nothing commitment. In fact, it may be easier to stick with it if you make a few changes at a time.
“Figure out a few things you’re willing to give up, and a few things you’re willing to add,” Dudash said. “If you do it slowly, gradually, it will be more doable and you will have more success.”