I love it when my three year-old calls me “Wonder Woman.” LOVE. IT. In turn, I MUST call him Robin and his five year-old brother Batman. Baby Ava is Bat Girl. My husband is the Green Lantern, and while he looks nothing like Ryan Reynolds, I find him very handsome after nearly eight years of marriage. As a busy wife and mom of three young children – trying to “do it all,” I often find myself wishing I had real super powers – like the kind that with just a snap of my fingers or laser-beam eyes, I could whip up a nutritious meal, everyone would eat it and call me well, “Wonder Woman.”
To make the most of National Nutrition Month, I would like to acknowledge all of the super families out there who are my heroes and inspiration. Together, we can use our super powers for good habits and good health! Healthy habits start at home and when it comes to eating, here are some tips to turn eating at home into super family fun!
Be a role model – Even if they do not say or act like it, your kids are looking to you for what and how they should eat. Remember: You are their superhero.
Make meal planning and food shopping a “family affair” – Giving your kids “ownership” to select among the nutritious choices you provide builds their confidence and life-long healthful food behaviors. Tip from the front lines: Food shopping can be hectic with multiple children. If you have more than one child, consider turning food shopping into a one-on-one “mommy (or daddy) and me” opportunity. Each child will look forward to taking their turn at helping you select foods for the family.
Consider creating a meal “rotation” – Feel free to create one for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A two-week rotation is a good start. After discussing the meal plan with your kids, write it on a calendar and weekly dry erase board. This will create a sense of order at meal time and hopefully, prevent last-minute meal meltdowns. Each child will look forward to their favorite meal picks when they come up in the rotation.
Pack your pantry (and your fridge) with lots of nutrient-rich foods – This includes fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice are all good choices), whole grains, lean protein sources, including meat, poultry, fish and nuts, and low-fat dairy products. Remember: Your pantry and refrigerator shelves are your children’s “grocery store.”
Take “Together Counts” to the kitchen – Keep kids interested in the foods you want them to eat by preparing meals with them and discussing the importance of balancing food choices with physical activity. With today’s hectic schedules, many of us feel like we do not get enough family time. Whenever possible – even just one meal each week, turn meal time into memory-making, family time. This kind of family fun brings parents and children together while also imparting safe food preparation skills that will help children throughout their lives. Check out these kid-tested and parent-approved recipes.
So…Now armed with these “super skills”…Repeat after me: I. AM. WONDER WOMAN. (OR GREEN LANTERN, etc.). As a parent, I can do what others cannot. I have the unique power to empower my kids to live healthy, active lives. It will be fun. It may be frustrating. It will likely be messy. It will create some of the best memories of my (and their) life.
Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RD, is Senior Director of Health and Wellness at the International Food Information Council Foundation, group fitness instructor at Gold’s Gym and leading expert in food and fitness (and busy – and at times, frazzled, mom to three young children – Drew, Evan and Ava).