Most parents have the best intentions when it comes to feeding their children nutritious meals, but with the reality of today’s busy schedules, some may fall short. Registered dietician Brittany Cines, founder of Fairfax-based Capital Pediatric Nutrition, shares practical tips for parents to help kids eat healthy throughout the school year.
What is the biggest mistake you see families make when it comes to healthy eating?
There are two types of situations that I commonly see. In some cases parents will prepare a healthy dinner for their children and after the child goes to bed, they grab fast food for themselves. Alternatively, in many families the child will eat fast food items or a frozen dinner and the parents will prepare a separate balanced meal for themselves. It is crucial for parents to recognize the importance of eating family meals together. There is no reason that children should be served separate meals as their parents.
How should parents talk to their children about making good food choices?
Eating should be an enjoyable experience for children, and parents should avoid classifying foods as “good foods” and “bad foods.” Instead, all foods can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet in moderation.
How can parents get kids excited about healthy eating?
It is so important to include children in the process of grocery shopping, meal planning and meal preparation in order to give them some independence and set them up for success as they get older.
With work and after-school activities, how can busy families eat healthy on the go?
It is definitely a challenge to prioritize healthy eating between jobs, school and extracurricular activities. The key to helping families stay on track is to do weekly grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation. While this may require extra time on the weekends, it will pay off during those busy weeks.
What are some of your favorite foods for on-the-go parents to pack?
Parents should make sure to travel with healthy snack choices such as squeezable yogurt, whole fruits, cheese and crackers, trail mix or veggies and hummus.
Thinking beyond the PB&J sandwich, do you have any favorite meals for kids’ school lunches?
Kids’ school lunches don’t always have to be the traditional PB&J sandwich. Families can think outside the box and offer items like hummus and veggie wraps, turkey and cheese rollups or even quinoa salads. It is best when children can get involved in preparing their school lunches so that they are more interested in eating it.
Do you think the lunches sold in schools today are healthy?
Schools work with dietitians to come up with lunches that include a protein, grain, fruit, vegetable and dairy choice. Often times the child might not be interested in eating all the items that are being served. Parents should look over the menu with their children in advance to determine if they are willing to eat it.
Brittany Cines has lived in the Metro-D.C. area her entire life. She has a B.S. degree in dietetics with a minor in Spanish from the University of Maryland and has served as a pediatric dietitian at Children’s National Health System. Her private practice, Capital Pediatric Nutrition, works with patients throughout the area.