As a busy parent, I know you understand the difficulty of always feeding your family healthy, home-cooked meals and encouraging healthy eating at all times. With hockey practice, dance lessons, swimming, homework, school projects and play dates, time constraints are tough on all of us. However, it's important to educate our kids about nutrition as early as possible so they know how to nourish their bodies into adulthood—and beyond. Teaching them starts at home but it also extends to their time at school. But how do we find the time to make it all happen? Great news! I’ve got solutions for you...and the best part? They're easy!
As a holistic nutritionist, I've had the opportunity to work in schools, so I’ve been able to see some of the lunches kids eat each day. Many of those lunches contain packaged and processed sugary items. There are many downsides to feeding them these types of foods including the fact that after eating processed foods, they'll bounce off the walls until they crash because they have no energy left. This breaks my heart because kids cannot concentrate or learn properly with this type of fuel. Real food creates real focus.
So how can we make school lunches a little healthier and get our kids eating healthier while at school?
Encourage your kid's school to apply for a grant from Metro's Green Apple School Program. I LOVE this program because it encourages kids to try new foods and it focuses on the foundation of a healthy diet: fruits and vegetables. Strengthening a love of healthy food at school will not only help our kids make better choices at home, but certainly lower their risk of obesity.
The grant allows schools to provide access to healthy food and provide nutritious alternatives to not-so-healthy choices while showing the importance of fresh local foods. Foods from different cultures are also highlighted (we do live in Canada, after all!) to expand the range of healthy choices. How amazing is that? To-date, the program has supported the establishment and completion of hundreds of gardens, cooking workshops, cookbooks, and food programs all across Ontario.
Metro is investing $500,000 into the program this year alone by awarding $1000 grants to elementary and secondary schools in Ontario. That’s free money for your kids’ healthy education! Any opportunity for our kids to adopt healthier nutrition habits and eliminate unhealthy ones while at school is a win.
Now that the school part is covered, what else can we be doing at home to get them eating those fruits and veggies? As always, we should be a positive example for our little ones—they mimic our every move, and this includes what we eat.
Ultimately, it's up to us to inspire our children to eat healthy, fresh foods and it’s easier than you may think. Encourage your kid’s school to apply for a grant through Metro's Green Apple School Program to help kids understand the concepts of proper nutrition and health. Surround your family with healthy, local ingredients and present these options to everyone, often. Try to eat one more piece of fruit today in front of your kids. See who can get the most peas onto their fork. Make meals as colourful as possible and let your little ones help! And then, we can all just sit back and watch our healthy kids grow.