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Expert Advice: Simple Ways to Improve Your Child's Nutrition

Simple Ways to Improve Your Child's Nutrition

Written by: Jeanne Reilly, MS, RD

Every time a new year rolls around, we feel resolved to make improvements in any number of areas in our lives. One very common resolution parents have is to put in more effort when it comes to providing their kids with good nutrition and instilling healthy eating habits. As parents, we all-too-often end up relying on convenience foods, prepared foods, and packaged foods to make breakfast a little faster, pack the lunch boxes in less time, or get dinner on the table before the hanger sets in. Between school, sports, homework, social lives, and all the other extra-curriculars, who can blame us?

The good news is, you can make a realistic resolution to improve your kiddo’s health, nutrition, and eating habits with very little effort at all. A few changes to your shopping list is all it takes. Read on for tips on how certain items and strategies can be your friend from a time saving and nutrition boosting perspective.

Resolve to be Healthy

Who doesn’t feel proud of themselves when they send their kids to school with a healthy lunch? Sometimes that’s just easier said than done — especially if you have a picky eater on your hands. The key is to start by making little nutritional upgrades to foods you know your kiddo already loves — take PB&J, for example!

In no time at all, you can make a batch of berry chia jam, loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, and much lower in sugar than the standard jams & jellies you find on store shelves. Swap out that strange, round, shelf-stable Uncrustable on white bread for a tasty, soft whole grain bread. If your kid is set on the circular shape of that pre-packaged lunch box favorite, pick up a round cookie cutter and match the shape to make it even more appealing. Finally, look at the label on your nut butter. If there are more ingredients than nuts and salt, think about getting a more natural version next time you go to the grocery store.

Another easy upgrade can be made in place of the sugary, non-nutritive, packaged bars kids love so much. Put those little hands to work with a fun, health-promoting after-school activity like piling ingredients in bowl, mixing them up, and rolling them into little protein balls for their lunches! These are so tasty, the kids won’t even question whether they are a healthy snack, or a delicious treat - lucky for you, they are both!

Resolve to be Quick

Time is always of the essence when you have a family. Quick, healthy, satisfying solutions for every meal and snack are key. One surefire, quick option that can easily be tailored to any taste buds is a healthy smoothie. Kids love smoothies - especially if you call them milkshakes! Get them involved in the process — have the kids help choose their favorite flavors and add the ingredients to the blender. Use the guide below to choose any variety of ingredients to make a smoothie a complete meal.

Smoothie Guide

Choose one kid-size serving from each category below, add all ingredients to a blender with water, milk, or milk substitute of choice, blend and enjoy!

  1. Veggies: Don’t be scared - veggies in smoothies does not have to mean food prep! One of my favorite go-to ingredients in every smoothie is frozen spinach. It adds loads of nutrients, but does not change the flavor at all. Frozen broccoli is another stand-by smoothie ingredient that doesn’t make it taste like you are drinking a salad. Pumpkin or squash, beets, and even cucumber are other tasty, nutritious options and can be found prepared and ready to use in the frozen aisle or refrigerated section. No prep required!
  2. Fat: Choose from nuts, nut butter, chia, pumpkin, or hemp seeds, or shredded coconut. Healthy fats are a great way to sneak some extra calories into your kid’s diet — especially if they are a picky eater or very active and can’t seem to put on weight.
  3. Protein: Kid’s Protein Powder (Healthy Height), plain greek yogurt, other dairy products like cottage cheese or milk, and even tofu are quick sources of protein you can add to a smoothie. Adequate protein is necessary to help your kids grow and thrive. Making smoothies even more delicious with a chocolate or vanilla flavored protein powder like Healthy Height will be even more enticing for the kiddos.
  4. Carbohydrate: Fruit - loaded with nutrients and a source of natural sweetness, there’s no need for added sugar when you sweeten your kid’s smoothie with fruit.

Here are a few quick smoothie recipes to get started:

Resolve to Keep it Easy

Providing balanced meals and snacks for our kids day after day can be quite a challenge. However, it doesn’t have to be when you work with a basic template and just fill in the pieces. No need to be a short order cook trying to please every kid’s preferences. Your job is to provide nutritious food they need to grow. Their job is to choose how much they eat.

The basic template outlined above for smoothies applies to every meal. A serving of protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and colorful fruit or vegetable will serve your child (and you!) well as they grow. Read on for some examples of how to build balance into everything you offer your kids. Bonus: Many of these recipes can be easily doubled, leaving you with a stash to draw from all week long.

  • Breakfast: Typical breakfasts like cereal, oatmeal, or pancakes tend to be very carbohydrate-heavy without many other nutrients. Easily add protein to all of these options by adding a protein powder like Healthy Height. Simply mix in a serving of Healthy Height to prepared oatmeal or yogurt, or make and freeze a batch of protein toaster waffles and have them ready in minutes for busy school mornings.
  • Lunch: Try that PB&J upgrade we talked about above, along with a glass of chocolate Healthy Height milk - your kids will love you forever.
  • Snack: How about some deceptively nutritious cookies, a tasty protein-packed muffin, or a smoothie?
  • Dinner: Ensure your kids get adequate protein at dinner by mixing some Healthy Height into their milk or milk substitute. Sleep is when growth happens, so it’s important to ensure their body has the nutrients it needs to do just that!

Make sustainable changes

New Year’s resolutions don’t have to fade after a couple weeks of hardcore effort. When you choose to make small changes that are simple, quick, and easy, they are sustainable and fit into your busy family life with no extra effort at all. Make a few changes to your shopping list and see how far these little improvements can take you and your kids this year!