For some of you, when that last school bell rang in June, out the window went the usual eating rules and habits and in rushed a relaxed attitude about fitness and eating what's convenient even if not always right.
Hey...it happens to the best of us, but now that the school routines are going to be coming around again, it's time to kick you and your family's nutrition in the tush and reinstate the right ways to eat so that you'll all be at top physical and mental health when the new school year begins.
Rule #1: Get Your Kids Involved
Kids love to be given tasks and responsibilities and having them help you plan their meals is a great back-to-school assignment for them to get involved with. Once they're invested in what they're eating they will care more about what their options are and why. And it's NEVER too early to teach someone healthy eating.
Just think how your life might be different if you knew what you know now...I know it could have changed my entire life!
The thing I love most about cooking with kids is that you can make just about anything in the kitchen a fun and exciting science experiment. Add a little of this, a dash of that, and you have not only opened their eyes to the possibilities of flavors, but also the possibility that eating healthy isn't yucky or boring.
Start by having them look at a few recipes for various meals that you're willing to cook with them and is realistic for the ages you're working with.
Have them each pick a couple breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, as well as a snack or 2 that they enjoy eating and is healthy. Then cook each of the meals together, teaching them how to measure, explaining why each ingredient is used, and how to package things for freshness.
The kids will feel both included and a sense of accomplishment at a job well done once you're all finished. This will also help to reinforce their knowledge of food and the best healthy choices they can make. It will also give you a better understanding of what they know about food so that you're setting them up for success later in life.
And this isn't just limited to kids...
If you're also trying to get your spouse, partner, or other family members in the house on the healthy eating bandwagon, getting them involved in the process is the first step to getting them invested in their own healthy eating plan. Just because you typically cook the meals in the house, doesn't mean you'll cook whatever they want. So give them healthy options and let them choose from those.
You're not a short-order cook, and you're certainly not going to contribute to a lifestyle that you KNOW is unhealthy. You want your loved ones to live a long, healthy, and able-bodied life - and the way to do that is with real food!
Rule #2: Let's Go Shopping
Having the kids go shopping with you doesn't have to be a torturous event...
The best way to shop with more than one child is to split up the foods on your list and have each child look for foods on their list. You can turn it into a little scavenger hunt to make it even more of a game. This of course is not going to work for every age, but just like you got them involved in cooking, you need to get them involved in shopping too.
To teach them even more, talk to your children about what is on food labels - the good, the bad, and the things to stay far away from. This will give them a concrete vision about what they're putting into their bodies, why, and how it can help or hinder their growth.
Again...this is not a kids only rule - teaching adults how to shop is also incredibly important to living a healthy lifestyle. With all of the choices in our supermarkets today it could take hours to read all of those ingredient labels, but if you learn what brands you can trust, you'll get in and out without a hitch.
Rule #3: Everyone Makes Their Own Lunch
Now this one is especially for adults, as the kids may not be big enough to actually make their own lunch, but it's still important that they're involved - as we talked about in rules 1 and 2.
By having everyone make their own lunch, you can further their knowledge of healthy food choices and again, they will gain a sense of accomplishment by pitching in and being responsible for their own meal.
This is also a great way to keep an eye on what you're eating and you won't be as tempted by the office doughnut pile when you know that you've got a healthy lunch and snacks waiting for you.
If you've taken the summer "off" from healthy eating, packing your lunch is a great way to get back into the groove. You can also team up with a friend, co-worker, spouse, partner, trainer, whoever, that can be your accountability buddy and help you stay true to your goals and strategies for getting there. Having someone cheering you on, supporting you, and going through it with you can help you lose weight at twice the rate of going at it alone!
Getting your loved ones involved in healthy eating isn't always easy, but it's always beneficial for everyone involved. Start your school year off with this new routine and you'll have self-proclaimed healthy eaters in no time!