Back-to-school is upon us. Between stocking up on supplies, adjusting to a new schedule and after-school activities, it can be challenging to maintain a wel- balanced diet. Not to mention, a summer of vacationing, camp and barbecues doesn’t always support the healthiest of eating choices. To help you and your youngsters start the school year off right, we’ve asked Michelle Stern, founder of What’s Cooking with Kids and author of The Whole Family Cookbook, to lend her expertise on tips for families to eat healthy any day of the year.
Live Gourmet: How do you recommend bringing more balanced healthy meals back into your family’s routine?
Michelle Stern: We love to bring healthy snacks with us when we are on-the-go. Carrots and hummus, bags of English peas, and dried fruit are part of our regular snacking routine — and with the appropriate waste-free food containers, they are easy to take with us. But when we get home, I try to get the kids to help me plan some menus for the week. When they are invested in family meals, they are more eager to eat the fruits of their labor, so to speak.
LG: As an educator, what do you think is the biggest challenge to get kids to eat healthy?
MS: I think that many kids simply aren’t regularly exposed to healthy choices. For families on a budget, they may worry that spending money on new veggies is too risky, and so they stick with tried-and-true foods. By exposing kids to fruits and vegetables IN an educational setting, educators can assume some of that risk and the kids will come home from school ready and eager to try the new foods and help the family make good food choices.
LG: Do you have any favorite back-to-school lunch ideas?
MS: In my recent blog post on Waste-Free lunch essentials, I have a free downloadable Lunch Menu planner to make packing lunches easier for families. Kids can get tired of sandwiches so it’s fun to mix things up a bit. Try using tortilla rollups filled with cream cheese and jam, or hummus and cucumbers! Or mini frittatas made in muffin tins pack a huge protein punch and can be easily customized to suit each child’s tastes.
LG: What is your advice to families who have picky eaters?
MS: Keep trying! It takes 8-12 exposures of a new food before it’s often accepted. It’s important that you don’t give up. Don’t pressure kids to eat certain foods. Instead, be sure there is something on the table that they will eat and then let them make choices. Eating is one of the few times that kids can exercise control in their lives….and it can easily become a battleground if we add too much pressure.