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Eating Healthy on the Go: Quick Foods Kids Will Love

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WebMD Expert Column

Hot, home cooked meals ... just the thought of hearty food brings back memories of mom’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes or chicken noodle casserole. But many weight-conscious families are frequently on the go and eating meals in a hurry. Unfortunately for many American families, this translates into eating packaged and processed foods and doing the fast food drive-through more often. So how can your family focus on weight loss when you’re on the go?

When meals and snacks are prepared at home, parents can provide nutrient-rich, whole foods and de-emphasize packaged and processed foods high in saturated fat and sodium and low in fiber. But most families today have super-busy schedules.  So how can you have the best of both worlds? With a smartly stocked kitchen and some new tips and ideas to try, your family can have healthy and homemade meals and snacks AND eat on the run, too!

Good Nutrition: A Family Affair

Good nutrition is an activity the whole family can be involved in. If your children are helping you cook and shop for a healthy, homemade meal or snack, they are more likely to want to try it and like it. Cooking is also a terrific alternative to television and video games. Some ideas to get your kids involved include:

  • Kids love to cook, and they start showing an interest around the age of 2. Start them off with tasks like scrubbing vegetables clean with brush and some water, tearing lettuce, snapping the ends off green beans, and dipping foods into dips or sauces. By age 3 they can usually begin pouring and hand mixing, shaking, and spreading. 4-year-olds can try to peel, roll, and mash food, while 5-year-olds can begin to measure, cut with a plastic knife, and grate cheese or vegetables (using a square upright grater with supervision).
  • Many favorite foods, such as muffins, waffles, pancakes, and biscuits, can be mixed with a spoon or whisk instead of using the electric mixer. This way, even younger children can help.
  • Have children learn to measure and pour by setting your ingredients and measuring cups on a jelly roll pan. The jelly roll pan catches any flying flour or splashing liquids, which is a breeze to clean compared to your floor and kitchen counter.
  • A great way to get children interested in eating fruits and vegetables is to let them help you in the produce section. Even little hands can pick out apples, oranges, pears, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, and corn on the cob, avocados, and more.
  • Take your child to your local farmer’s market so they can celebrate the freshness and flavor of in-season fruits and vegetables.

The top health concerns for today’s youth are the rising rates of obesity and diabetes. Many nutrition experts would argue that this epidemic is fueled, at least in part, by the typical American diet, which relies heavily on processed and fast food. For American teens, the proportion of calories that come from fast food or restaurants tripled between the late 1970s and the late 1990s to a whopping 19.3%, and this number continues to rise.

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