It's cupcake day again in class, at hockey practice, and at a friend's house after school. When your children leave for the day, they may face a daily diet of unhealthy foods.
Sure, too much bad food can cause unhealthy weight gain in kids. But that's not the only reason you want your kids to eat right. Nutritious food not only fuels their growth, it gives them energy to be active. Healthy foods are filling and cut down on cravings. Unfortunately, while you're doing your best to teach good habits, you're not the only one feeding your child.
"I was just shocked by the amount of junk food my kids were getting in school, and it started in preschool," says Stacy Whitman, an Idaho mom of three and creator of the blog School Bites. "My efforts to feed them healthy foods were being undermined."
Here are seven ways parents can push for better foods, from day care to T-ball practices to high school cafeterias.
1. Be a Room Parent
Work with your child's teacher to plan just one treat day each month for birthdays and other events. Help create healthy guidelines for the treats parents bring to class. The teacher won't have to play "food cop." Kids and families may learn about better foods and learn to like them, too!
Ask a dietitian for ideas. Fruit kabobs with yogurt dipping sauce can be a sweet birthday treat.
2. Plan a Walk-a-Thon Instead of a Bake Sale
Students can ask family and friends to pledge money for each lap around a track. Kids end up with better health instead of sugary treats.
3. Organize the Team Snack Schedule
From little kids’ soccer to high school tennis, parents often bring drinks and snacks for the team. Work with the coach or league to create a list of healthy choices. Water is the best beverage -- with no unnecessary calories or sugar that they'd get in juices or sports drinks. But don't active kids need sports drinks? "For the most part, children don't need them," says Janet M. de Jesus, MS, RD, a nutritionist with the We Can! program.
Good snack choices include cantaloupe chunks, orange slices, lunch-box size apples, or other fruits.
4. Inspire Better Food Choices
Help start a school vegetable garden, a visiting program with a local farm, or a healthy cooking class. It'll make veggies and fresh foods appealing to the children. The school's home economics or consumer science teacher might agree to be a sponsor and be happy to have your help.
5. Pack Lunch
If the choices in the cafeteria aren't good for your child, switch to a brown-bag lunch. Let her help buy and prepare the food. When kids help in the kitchen, they are more likely to eat what they make. Consider whole-grain pita pocket sandwiches stuffed with hummus and cucumber slices, or chopped chicken salad with sliced grapes and walnuts.