Monday, April 20, 2015

Simple and Fun Ideas for Healthy Kids!

Chobani's #ChobaniKids project is all about encouraging kids to eat healthy in order to help them grow up strong and maintain proper nutrition.  When thinking about our own household, we want to ensure that our 3 year-old eats healthy, but we also have to take into account food safety since Georgia continues to suffer from food allergies.  Over time, she has slowly outgrown a few allergies, but we still avoid peanuts, tree nuts, raw dairy and raw eggs.  At times, it makes healthy eating much easier (all those pre-packaged products with 100+ ingredients that you cannot pronounce often contain things that she can't eat!).  Other times, we're scrambling for options since she can be a picky eater, like most kids her age.  The #ChobaniKids project inspired me to share some of the ways our family tries to maintain proper nutrition and healthy eating while also managing food allergies.

So here's our bottom line... keep it simple and keep it fun!

Keep it simple!
  • We are a two parent working household, like many families.  To us, that means we keep it simple since we always seem to be battling the clock.  Fresh is best, but we take shortcuts where we can get them.  Most of our grocery store runs are on the fly with a short list in hand to grab fresh ingredients to help spice up meat or poultry that we've frozen or stocked up on ahead of time.  Frozen vegetables are also a staple in our house for quick side dishes.  We're thrilled that the warm weather is here and our weekend farmer's markets will start up again.  We love stopping by and grabbing fresh produce for the week.  We're also joining our local CSA (community supported agriculture) this year, so we'll get fresh fruits and vegetables grown at a local farm delivered weekly to our area.  There's nothing like eating fresh produce, while also supporting our local farmers.  Now, that's not to say that a picky 3 year-old eats that fresh produce, but we try our best by enticing her with new and fun foods, like different colored carrots, tomatoes and potatoes.

Helping to peel carrots for dinner last summer

  • The slow cooker is a working mom's best friend and ours gets a regular work-out during the week.  Again, we keep it simple - throw in some frozen chicken with a jar of salsa and dinner is ready when we walk in the door.  Serve over some veggies, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice for a quick and healthy dinner that even a picky toddler will eat!  There are so many great websites out there with quick slow cooker recipes with 5 ingredients or less and flavored salsas help to keep things new and exciting.

It may not always be pretty, but it tastes fabulous!

  • With a preschooler, we find that the more ingredients we put into something, the less likely it is that she will like it or eat it.  We try too keep school lunches simple, yet full of options that we know she will eat during the day.  We have to bypass using the school lunch program since it tends to include lots of dairy (yummy, but not safe for us).  Luckily, Georgia still enjoys her combination of coconut milk and rice milk and is a huge water drinker.  Unless we're at a birthday party, she doesn't consume juice.  She doesn't ask for it and we don't keep it in the house.  At school, she has a special cup to help avoid confusion in the classroom with the rest of the kids who are drinking regular cow's milk and she eats at the end of the table to help with cross-contamination risks. 

Some eats from our week...
Top (L) - First bbq of the season ----Chicken burger and sweet potato fries
Top (R) - Movie night included some plain popcorn
Lower (L) - Dinner at home one night --- turkey dog with mac/cheese/broccoli and grapes
Lower (R) - Lunch for school --- rice/black beans, banana, strawberries, broken up tortilla shell and half a cookie thin

Keep it fun!
  • Since Georgia was old enough to walk, she's helped to take care of our plants.  Kids, especially the toddler/pre-k age, LOVE to be helpers, especially when they get to see the rewards at the end.  By age 3, she knew that part of her "chores" were to help us water our garden throughout the week.  We also get in some great talks about how things grow, why certain plants don't thrive on our deck, bugs, etc.  We grow our veggies while we grow our vocab!  Unfortunately, we live in an area with a heavy deer population, so our garden has to be contained to pots and containers on our deck.  But, our limited space hasn't limited our options.  This year, we've got tomatoes, peppers, onions, spinach, snap peas, and raspberries on our deck.  Nothing is more fun than picking fruits/veggies that you nurtured and helped to grow.

Mommy's water can and Georgia's water can

Helping to water the peppers and tomatoes

  • Our house is surrounded by farms, which means we are fortunate to have access to their crops all year long.  We love to pick our own apples, strawberries, blueberries, and pumpkins and it's fun for the whole family.  An expedition to the farm is nothing more than a family field trip, especially when you get to check out the tractors, animals, and all the other cool stuff that happens at the farm.  Once we got all these farm fresh ingredients home, we always have to come up with some fun new recipes to whip up in the kitchen.  Georgia loves to help cook pancakes with her daddy on weekend mornings.  Getting kids involved in cooking is a great way to show them how to prepare food, learn about measuring, how to follow a recipe, etc.  We also use this time to teach Georgia about her allergies - the substitutions we use frequently, why we wash our hands all the time, and how to keep her safe.

Fun family farm trips

  • I'm a firm believer that kids do as they see.  It often makes me re-think time I spend on our devices or just watching television.  We try to spend as much time outside as possible when the weather permits!  We frequently hit the local playgrounds, meet up with friends in the neighborhood, snow tube on our hill, play in the back yard, swim at the community pool, etc.  Not only have we met new neighbors/friends by being out and about, but it's great way to sneak in exercise and some vitamin D.  We try to squeeze in a nightly walk every evening after dinner.  It's great family time while we digest our food, check out the happenings in the neighborhood, and log a few miles.  Our daughter loves this time together and she thinks it's fun because we're all enjoying our walk/exercise together.

Climbing like a monkey at the neighborhood school playground

  • Kids are greatly influenced by their parents levels of health, fitness and wellness.  Monkey see... monkey do.  This weekend, Georgia participated in her first fun run at our local 5K.  She was so proud to "run like Mommy!"  She's my #1 cheerleader, so it was great to swap roles and cheer her on instead.  She routinely sees me hit the treadmill, play in my school's softball league, coach running to the girls at my school, go to the gym or run races on the weekends.  Georgia thinks moving is fun because she sees me do it, take pride in it and enjoy it.  Earning a medal is fun at any age!

Mommy and G both ran in races this week!

  • Speaking of sports... During the fall and spring, Georgia plays soccer through a local organization in our town.  Not only does it get the whole family up and moving on Sunday mornings, but it teaches her about teamwork, listening/following directions, and she gets to have fun with her friends in the neighborhood.  During the school week, she participates in a dance program at school.  Kids need hobbies besides playing video games and being on their devices all day long.  Giving her the opportunity to explore and develop her own talents and interests is important to us as a family.   

Dance and soccer fun

Do we follow these rules at all times?  NOPE!  Everything in moderation and we are just as likely to order a pizza on a Friday night after a busy week as everyone else.  But, we try to keep our simple and fun motto during the week, when meal planning, and at the grocery store.  We are a busy family on the go, but we still take pride in trying to eat healthy, nutritious and tasty food that is safe for all members of our family!

How does your family encourage a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition, especially with the littlest members of your household?  Link up to Chobani's #ChobaniKids project to share your tips!

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