Tips for Staying on Track

Previous Weeks’ Tips

Children are more likely to eat a nutritious meal if they’ve had a hand in making it. Let your child help you select ingredients, prepare the meal and even clean up afterwards.

Some fruits and vegetables are not supposed to be chilled. How you find them in the market is probably the best way to store them once you get them home.

Cook with less fat – try baking, roasting, or poaching foods instead of frying.

Visit a local farmers market to teach your kids about where their food comes from. You can find a local farmers market by clicking on the following link:

Avoid letting your child snack all day long. If they aren’t very hungry at mealtime, they are less likely to try new foods.

Be a fun role model for healthy eating. Pile some extra veggies on your plate and let the kids know how delicious they are. A little extra acting is okay, you have an audience with your kids.

Keep your child’s nutrition balanced by offering snacks from food groups they may have missed at the last meal. Chicken salad for lunch? Have raw veggies dipped in a yogurt dressing for afternoon snack.

When shopping, let your toddler choose a new vegetable to try. This help will motivate them to try vegetables when it has been their choice. You can include the new vegetable choice into a recipe or serve steamed or roasted.

Be sure to serve small portions when introducing a new food. Your picky eater will be more inclined to tackle two or three pieces of okra or kale instead of a mound of something they have never tried before.

If a restaurant entrée has a sauce you or child really like but you want to cut down on fat or calories, ask for the sauce on the side. This puts you back in control.

Make a simple chart to keep track of the new foods or recipes your kids try over the course of a month. Seeing lots of stars in the “I like it” column could prompt your little ones to become more adventurous eaters.

Green, yellow and red bell pepper circles make a great ‘stop light’ design on a salad plate.

Cookie cutters aren’t just for cookies and sandwiches. Try small ones on pieces of melon or bell pepper. Larger ones can jazz up a flat bread pizza. Use a simple design like a star, heart or quarter moon to shape tuna or egg salad on a lettuce leaf.

Buy a vegetable scrubber in you child’s favorite color and let them help with cleaning duties at dinner time.

When making dinner think how the leftovers could be used for lunch the next day. Will the pasta dinner make a warm lunch for a chilly day? Does leftover chicken have a future as chicken, apple and celery salad? Be a little creative so the kids don’t feel like they are eating dinner all over again.

Want to keep lettuce and other greens fresh for a longer period of time, without the expense of special plastic bags? After washing and letting drain, wrap in a paper towel before storing in containers or regular plastic bags.

When storing leftovers in re-sealable bags, be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible. Not only will this help to conserve space in the fridge or freezer but it also helps keep food fresher and prevents freezer burn.

Avocados make a great editable bowl for low-fat chicken or tuna salad. Remove the seed and make a slice on the bottom to make the avocado flat. Fill the seed hole with your salad mixture. Avocados are loaded with nutrients such as dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium and folate. Mash a little avocado with a fork and you have a wholesome baby food.

Remember with kids, especially it seems toddlers, it is all about control. Instead of saying “You have to eat green beans.” Try giving a choice of green beans or carrots. If they think the choice is their idea they might be more inclined to eat. (Just don’t turn yourself into a short order kitchen)

After dinner, set the table for breakfast with everything you will need the next morning; except those refrigerated items. These few quick steps can save lots of time in the morning rush for books, lunches and jackets.

Show your toddlers a new food before you ask them to try it. Pictures in their story books, the food at the grocery store or looking the food up on the web can all help make them familiar with new foods before they see it on their plate.

To help reduce the clutter in your kitchen, remove from the counters all of the items you don’t use everyday. You might find you don’t really need some of these things after all.

Strawberries provide Vitamin C and fiber and one cup contains only about 50 calories. Toss some fresh strawberries in a smoothie or add chopped strawberries to pancake batter.

Take healthy snacks like low salt pretzels, fruit bars or carrot sticks for the little ones when you shop. This can help extend shopping time and avoid long lines in the food court or a stop for fast food.

If you are traveling for the holidays, be sure and pack age appropriate snacks for the trip. Your own containers of fresh vegetables and plus low-fat dip in a small cooler, small packs of cheese and crackers, and bottles of water are healthier for the kids and will help cut food costs on the road.

The holidays are here and the kitchen is a flurry of activity. Look for healthy substitutes for your favorite recipes. Use low-fat milk and low-fat cream cheese instead of whole milk products. When baking try applesauce instead of oil.

The best way to set a good example for kids is to always wash your hands before beginning meal preparations and between kitchen tasks. Have the kids join you during hand washing even if they are too young to prepare food.

Cabbage, a rich source of Vitamins A, C, E, and B, is a wonderful addition to stir-fry, sandwich wraps and soups. These are great ways to serve children this nutritious vegetable. Check the “Fresh from Florida Kids” recipes for more ideas.

Designate one area in the kitchen for lunch-making. Keep lunch boxes, containers, thermos and non-perishables in this area for quick and easy morning lunch making.

Avoid finding leftovers after it is too late to eat them by keeping a list on the fridge of leftovers inside. A dry erase board works great for this and is a good visual reminder to anyone looking for a quick snack.

You tell me, and I forget. You teach me, and I remember. You involve me, and I learn. — Benjamin Franklin

A good habit to have in the kitchen is to keep pot handles turned to the back and try to use only the back burners.

When grocery shopping with your child talk about where food comes from and the importance of eating healthy foods.

Toddlers enjoy feeding themselves and eating meals and snacks at the table with others. It can get messy, but this is your toddler’s chance to explore new foods and tastes.

Pack children’s healthy lunches and snacks the night before to save time in the early morning hours.

Try to follow the same consistent routine each day so your kids know what to expect. Children thrive on routine and order!

Read product labels to see what you are getting. Examine the ingredients list and nutritional content for the real story. Ingredients that are used in the greatest amount are listed first, followed by those used in smaller amounts.

Avoid pre-cut and prepared items. Convenience foods can be tempting, but usually come with a higher price tag than whole fruits or vegetables and bulk items. Buy whole and bulk items and set aside time to make your own convenience foods. The extra effort will be worth the savings.

Try to shop for groceries after you haven eaten a meal. If you are hungry, you could spend $20 or more on unnecessary items.

Shop sales and use weekly store flyers to identify bargains. There are usually several produce items on sale each week. Use sale items as inspiration for new menu ideas or to add variety to your favorite recipes.

Be aware of portion control. Your toddler may eat only 6-7 slices of okra or 5 green beans instead of the 2-3 spoonfuls you would serve an adult. Fill cups half way. This not only avoids waste but makes any spills easier to clean. You can always refill or serve more.

Kids of all ages are more likely to snack on healthy food when vegetables and fruit are available in pre cut portions. Try to keep age appropriate snacks ready in the fridge. Toddlers like melons cut into chunks while older children usually prefer pre-cut slices. Both age groups will snack on strips of carrots, cucumbers or bell peppers. You may want to add a low-fat yogurt dip. (See the Cool Cucumber Dip from our Phase 2 recipes)

Reinforce learning the alphabet with your child as you walk the produce aisle. A is for Avocado, B is for Broccoli and so on. With any luck he will show interest in the food he has seen in the produce aisle and want to taste it. Take this opportunity to introduce the “alphabet food” (if you have not already) into your family’s meal plan.

Become a label reader when shopping at the food store. It takes a little more time but your family will benefit when you compare items for cost and nutritional content. And always check the date code!

Activity, activity, activity! Keeping yourself and your toddler active with games, walks in the park, even gardening (what child doesn’t love to play in the dirt) will go a long way toward making healthy, active choices in the future.

Make sure the rewards you give your child are extra attention, hugs, kind words or even a small sticker and not a candy bar or cupcake. Food (even healthy food) should not be associated with any kind of reward or attention.

Make mealtime fun and plan a-once-a week special dinner for your family. Have family members name each dish with a silly name like “super-duper spaghetti” with “sparkly space salad” and “best bread ever”. Choose a vegetable no one has tried before and make it the “star” of your evening meal. Even a toddler will get the idea something is different tonight.

When eating out, avoid allowing your toddler to fill up on bread while you wait for your meal. Many restaurants will offer carrots or other raw vegetables for kids to snack on while you wait.

Hot weather is here. Remember to keep children well hydrated, particularly when outdoor play is a part of their daily routine. Offer water often and avoid drinks that are high in empty calories.

A good, low-fat choice for dipping is salsa. Control the spice and make your own. Experiment with different fruits like mangoes, strawberries and peaches.

Try one new food or recipe each week. Shopping for in season fruits and vegetables can help with this and save you money.

If a favorite food suddenly becomes number one on the list of ‘No’ try turning it into a finger food or serving it with something new and different. Toddlers love finger foods.

Mom (and Dad) don’t ignore your snacking urges. Keeping healthy snacks on hand can make your hectic life much easier.
— Low-fat cottage cheese with a fresh fruit or vegetable.
— Pre-sliced oranges or chunks of melon in the fridge.
— Whole grain crackers or low-fat pretzels in small, sealed containers for on the go.
— Pre-cut celery and carrots in the fridge.

Be your child’s first and best healthy role model. Look for like-minded parents to share tips and motivation to raise smart eaters!

Plan weekly menus ahead of time to save money and valuable time.