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Why Your Child Should Help Prepare Meals

Why Your Child Should Help Prepare Meals

With the obesity rate expected to hit an all-time high by 2020, it’s more important than ever that children are educated on proper nutrition.

One of the best ways to do this is to encourage your child to help you with meal prep. Children learn more by doing, so why not work with your child to prepare a healthy meal, or to pack a healthy lunch? Here are some of the benefits and ways to get your kids involved:

Benefit #1: It Encourages Them to Try More Foods

“If you want your child to eat healthier, getting them involved in meal prep is a great way to open their eyes to new foods,” says Holly Kistler, one of the lead dietitians for BistroMD. “Urge them to use vegetables as one of their main sides, and warn them about overly-processed foods, and trans-fats in baked goods, such as tortillas and tacos.”

If possible, try to use more natural and organic foods. Avoid foods that contain “dyes” as well as artificial coloring.

When preparing dinner, balance is also key. Make sure to prepare a dish that has a good source of protein and that also contains complex carbohydrates. Grilled or baked chicken can be a good souce of protein and orzo can be both a healthy and tasty side. Not only does it contain healthy complex carbohydrates, but the pasta-like taste makes it more relatable for kids.

Make sure almost half of their plate contains vegetables. If preparing broccoli, add just a sprinkle of cheese to make it more appealing to your child. Not a handful. Cooked or roasted carrots are also a good option, and can make for a healthy side, and so can freshly prepared green beans.

Try to buy your vegetables fresh whenever possible, as canned vegetables often contain added fillers and chemicals.

As far as beverages go, water is always a good option, but your child may need something with a little more vitamins. If you are going to serve juice, make sure it doesn’t contain any added sugar and that the label says “100% juice.” Some brands of juice can contain as much sugar as a 2 liter bottle of soda!

Benefit #2: It Encourages Them to Make Better Choices

Processed food can be like an addiction for some, especially for children. On the other side of the spectrum, if your child eats healthier foods, their desire for junk food will be very minimal.

“If children are taught at a young age to eat healthy, this betters their chances of making healthier choices on their own,” says Holly. “If they don’t possess a desire for junk food, the more likely they are to make the best choices while they are at school, or having lunch with friends.”

Another great way to do this is to have your child prepare their own lunch, with your help. Tuna on 100% whole grain or whole wheat bread is a good option, so is sliced turkey breast with low-fat mayo with olive oil and lettuce and tomato. Just be cautious of lunch meat. Most of it contains so many processed fillers and chemicals that slim to none of the actual meat still exists. Instead, slice up some of the meat you cook at home for their sandwiches.

You can also try wraps. Wraps come in a variety of low-fat flavors and grains, and can make a healthy substitution for bread.

If you want to keep things traditional, you can also make a healthier version of the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Choose a natural peanut butter brand with very little added sugar or sodium and no trans fats. Instead of jellies and jams with added sugars, choose a good spread. Spreads usually have less sugar and contain actual fruit. Add slices of banana for more flavor, and for a little extra calcium and fiber.

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