Avoiding a Fast Food Diet with Children
We are a country of people that always seems to be ‘on the go’. With demands of work, commuting, transporting children to their activities at all hours, it should come as no surprise that more meals are eaten away from home than around the family dining table. Ask yourself: When was the last time you had a family dinner? If it’s been too long, then maybe it’s time to sit back and look at your dining habits. If your family is eating too much ‘fast food’ due to a hectic lifestyle, then follow these suggestions for cutting calories and fat.
1. Keep healthy, portable food and snacks on hand. If you spend a lot of time in a car, then pack containers of nuts, trail mix, crackers, fruit, string cheese and other nutritious snacks in the car to keep your children happy and satisfied. Make sure everyone has their own water bottle!
2. Prepare meals in advance. If your week consists of lessons, sporting events or evening meetings, then look for recipes that can be made in advance and reheated. Weekend planning can make the school week so much easier, as well as preventing those last minute fast food visits to the drive-through.
3. What’s in your child’s school lunch? Chances are it’s not as healthy as you would like. Combine a mediocre lunch with a supper of fast foods high in salt and fat, and it’s not hard to see why childhood obesity is a major health concern. Pack a healthy lunch for your child, and include enough for an after school snack, especially on those days when they have after school activities. This will help them keep a healthy blood sugar level and not be so ravenous at dinner.
4. Encourage your kids to help with food preparation. Incorporate some of your child’s favourite foods into dinnertime. If Mexican food is on the menu, then forget takeout taco, but make ground turkey tacos instead. Your child won’t notice the difference and this is an easy meal to prepare in advance. Pizza? Forget the greasy home delivery version and make your own with healthy vegetables, low fat cheese and a whole wheat crust. Let your kids experiment a bit with the toppings.
5. Sit down. Make it a priority to sit around the dinner table at least once a week. Turn off the TV, take away all cell phones and just concentrate on reconnecting. Once your family gets into this habit, they will start to look forward to this time.
Of course, there are times when fast food may be necessary. But use this as a treat and not a way of life. Studies have shown that children can gain six pounds a year from fast food alone! Consider the healthier options that many restaurants offer. Many ‘kid’s meal’ options include apple slices as opposed to potato fries and low-fat milk instead of a sugary soft drink.