September, the weather is changing, summer is coming to an end and the new school year is beginning. As parents, we want the best for our children as they go out into the world and we will go out of our way to make things good for them. Starting off with healthy balanced meals and healthy snacks is an excellent way to begin and it can be easy and inexpensive to do.
What are the benefits of healthy balanced meals? There are many. Healthy balanced meals improve your immune system, help you to maintain (and lose) weight, control cravings throughout the day, make your skin smooth and healthy, and increase your energy level. And that is just a start. There are many more benefits to eating healthy balanced meals and healthy snacks.
Eating breakfast is considered to be the most important meal of the day and it is well know that it is the meal that is most often skipped or neglected. With child obesity on the rise, breakfast is critical. A healthy balanced breakfast aids in weight management. Gail Frank, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association commented that, “Eating breakfast is very important for the brain and the body first thing in the morning. Breakfast skippers often feel tired, restless or irritable in the morning.”
This is how I picture the morning starting. I gently wake up my children in the morning and give then a glass of water to get their day started. As they shower, the water will start their digestive process. We gather at the breakfast table for a healthy balanced meal – breakfast, one of the most important meals of the day. Our breakfast will consist of a non-processed cereal (the most familiar is oatmeal); a side dish of blue berries; and a serving of yogurt.
This healthy balanced meal will set them off to a good start. The oatmeal will provide them with a carbohydrate source that will help maintain a steady sugar balance during the morning, the blue berries are high in antioxidants which will boost their immune system as they are exposed to new children at school, and finally the yogurt will provide them with a source of protein which serves as a major energy supplier for the body.
If you are wondering how to make breakfast a healthy balanced meal – just remember three simple things. First, pick a carbohydrate (cereal or grain) that is not overly processed. The next step is to pick a fruit – something fresh that you and the children will enjoy. And finally, add some type of protein. This can be anything from milk to meat to yogurt to nuts to eggs. This is a simple inexpensive healthy balanced meal that will provide you with immediate and long term benefits.
Now we need to think of a snack – but not just any snack – a healthy natural snack. The more packaging and ingredients on a food product is a good indicator that the snack is not a healthy choice. Here are some ideas for healthy snacks: nuts (almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts); dried fruit (cranberries, figs); fresh vegetables (celery sticks, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes); fresh fruit (apples, bananas); boiled eggs. As adults, when we are preparing these snacks for our children we need to remember a few things. First of all, the children will most likely be eating these during their recess time so the snack has to be easy to eat. We do not want them to have to sit at a table and fuss over food.
Second, we need to make sure that it is a child portion. It is so easy to put too much into a little snack bag and announce our disappointment when they do not eat it all. “Oh… you didn’t eat all of your snack. Didn’t you like it?” there is no need to “guilt” our children into eating more than they need. And third, add variety. Children will not want to eat baby carrots every day for the rest of their school year. Provide a natural healthy variety of snacks. That does not mean that snacks cannot be repeated. I am only suggesting not doing a week of baby carrots followed by a week of almonds… how boring that can be. Make it exciting and different every day. They do say variety is the spice of life.
Lunches at home are easier than sending a lunch to school but with ice packs, hot food containers and little cooler lunch bags it is better now than it has ever been. You just need to follow the same ideas as preparing a breakfast.. You can be creative in picking a healthy balanced meal. Let me give you an example. Have you considered trying brown rice crackers as your carbohydrate for a healthy balanced meal? Sounds boring? Not if you add some almond butter – an excellent source of protein and natural fats (necessary for a healthy diet). And then my all time favourites – an apple and cucumber slices. Now how is that for a healthy balanced meal?
If that is not the type of food you are looking at, just substitute. You can have a sandwich with meat or cheese, eggs or fish. Vegetables, such as tomato slices can be put in a separate container and added to a sandwich. Fruit and veggies are great at lunch because your child will have the time to sit down and eat.
I think by now you understand the process. Just repeat it again for the afternoon snack and the evening meal. Be creative, play with food ideas, mix and match. The more color you have on your plate the more likely that you are eating a healthy balanced meal.
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