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Lunch Table to Dinner Table

During the school breaks, children spend most of their time at home, sometimes snacking all day. It is up to us, as parents, to help implement healthier food choices both during mealtime and snack time. There are a variety of ways to do this using behavioral, kid-friendly approaches. The Smarter Lunchrooms and Smarter Mealtimes strategies offer great ways for children to choose and enjoy healthier food choices, such as additional fruits and vegetables, both in the classroom and at home. One good way to do this is to offer healthier choices first, including during desserts and snack times. For example, offering a bigger side of vegetables at dinner before low nutrient, higher calorie sides such as pasta. In addition to this, it is always a good idea to keep healthier food choices at the table, such as salads and water, and keep more unhealthy choices on the kitchen counter or stove, away from the dinner table. This encourages children to eat more of what they see at the table. Children love choices, they are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables if they have a bigger variety to choose from. During snack times, provide a fruit and veggie platter with yummy, healthy dipping sides such as low-fat ranch, peanut butter, or Greek yogurt. For mealtimes, giving the child the freedom to pick which sides of vegetables are to be served at dinner for everyone further encourages them to be excited about eating vegetables, simply because THEY picked them. Sometimes children tend to eat out of boredom, especially during vacations from school when they are home a lot more than usual. A way to prevent unnecessary snacking is to pair fruits and vegetables eaten during snacks with high protein or high unsaturated fat foods. For example, vegetables can be paired with cheese or fruits with Greek yogurt, this will increase satiety keeping the child full longer. Also, drinking plenty of water is a good way to increase satiety and will also help your child stay hydrated during warmer days. Physical conditions may be preventing your child from enjoying certain fruits or vegetables. Things such as loose teeth or braces may be prevent a child from biting into fruits like apples, pears, peaches, etc. In order to facilitate consumption of these foods, slicing or cutting these fruits may make it easier for your child to eat and thus increase the likeliness of consumption.

Environmental factors play a big role in your child’s diet and their adherence to healthier food options:

· Family style meals – eating meals together has been shown to be a major influence in lowering body mass index (BMI).

· Lowering screen time – studies have shown that eating in front of a TV or using electronics at the table significantly lowers a child’s fruit and vegetable intake.

· Lead by example – get involved! Eat your own fruits and veggies and show your child that it can be fun and yummy.

· Ambiance – such things as temperature, loud sounds, distractions, lighting, etc. can all affect how much a child eats (i.e. cold temperatures have been linked to eating less).

· Gardening – experimenting with growing your own fruits and vegetables is also a fun way to get kids involved and they’ll enjoy cooking and eating things that they have grown themselves.

As a mother of three, I have found that creating a healthier version of their favorite snacks is the most effective way to get them to eat more fruits and vegetables. For instance, my children love popsicles, especially on a hot summer day. Therefore, I have experimented with creating my own real fruit, no sugar added, ice pops! Below you can find a general recipe of how I achieve this.


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