Healthy Eating for Busy Families

Kids making a healthy meal.America is getting fatter and Pennsylvania is helping to lead the way as one of the nation’s top 20 “most obese” states.

Our busy lifestyles encourage unhealthy eating habits, like eating on the run and high-fat/high-sugar snacking. But with a little effort, you can gradually transform your family’s diet from “fat” to “fit”!

Start your day off right

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Kids who eat breakfast — especially those packed with “brain food” like protein, vitamin C, and omega 3 — are more alert and focused in school; adults have more energy and concentrate better.

  • Is cereal your family’s breakfast of choice? Look for low-sugar, high-fiber options and top with fresh fruit and low-fat milk (1% or fat-free).
  • Get your creative juices flowing with easy-to-make fruit and yogurt smoothies.
  • Crunched for time? Grab a hard-boiled egg and toast, or top an apple or banana with peanut butter for a tasty “breakfast to go.”

Think smart when it comes to fast-food lunches

No time to pack your own lunch? Use these healthy strategies when dining out:

  • Say no to fried, sautéed, or creamy foods. Opt for roasted, grilled, broiled, steamed, or baked meals.
  • Beware of add-ons (like mayo, butter, and salad dressing) that quickly increase calorie counts.
  • Replace sodas with water or fat-free or 1% milk. Even diet sodas can be bad for you!
  • Go online for the nutrition information on your favorite meal. Don’t just focus on calories: look at factors like fat and sodium content.

Make dinner a family affair

Eating together as a family offers countless benefits — including serving more balanced, nutritious meals and the chance for parents to serve as “healthy eating” role models.

  • Talk to your children about portion control, with fruits and vegetables comprising half of every plate.
  • Reduce the amount of meat your family eats by gradually introducing healthy alternatives into your meals, like fish, whole grains, and beans.
  • Look for seasonal produce that is grown locally. In the fall, that means vegetables like pumpkins and squash, and fruits like apples and pears.

Interested in learning more about nutritious eating? Check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new guidelines at www.choosemyplate.gov.

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