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FHC Meatless MondaysWell, another month down-hard to believe. For many individuals and families this is the last week of summer before school is back in session, and the calendar is starting to become scary with all of the activities, meetings and plans. (On a positive note, September means football is starting back up!) It’s easy to lean toward making poor nutritional choices when the schedule gets crazy and convenience takes priority. Perhaps this school year new goals for tackling new health regimes can be made for you and your family!

Growing up, I broke the mold with diet and nutrition and stopped eating meat when I was in first grade. My family is very “meat and potatoes” and did everything they could think of to get me to eat meat. However, I spent dinnertime picking out every minute piece of hamburger and chicken out of my dinner because I hated the taste and texture. Bless my parents’ hearts for trying, but I was a lost cause becoming a carnivore.

There was always a separate meal for me growing up and my mom went above and beyond to make sure I had enough protein sources and was always introducing new foods such as quinoa and TVP (textured vegetable protein) to ensure I had enough to eat. Dad always made sure there was enough celery in the fridge. As the years went on and as I started high school, more and more meals with the family were vegetarian and I could count on at least one meal a week where everything was “safe” from meat. This brought our family together, and encouraged a healthier day during the week.

Now, I won’t go on a rant about converting everyone reading this into a vegetarian, as it may not be a good fit for everyone. But, a well-balanced vegetarian diet tends to be lower in cholesterol, certain fats and calories and can offer numerous health benefits. Even just replacing the meat in one meal a week can kick-start healthier habits.

Meatless Mondays is a concept I have heard about in magazines and from other families and individuals adapting their lives on a quest for a healthier lifestyle. Once a week, (Mondays in this example) one meal is made entirely sans meat. It’s an easy way to branch out and to make an adjustment during the week that is health conscious and a great way to try new foods. Many vegetarian recipes that are available simply omit meat and/or add vegetables and have all the flavors of the original dish. Examples of this would be spaghetti with sauce and vegetables, chili with extra beans, and tacos with vegetables and guacamole.

If the thought of one vegetarian meal a week scares you, adding vegetables or fruit to each meal may be a better starting point. Start with one day a week adding a fruit, or a vegetable and work your way up to most meals of the week. There are so many options available, and a variety of ways to season and cook them that can jive up the flavors and make it an easy transition for day to day usage. Branching out and trying new foods can be a fun and rewarding experience, especially when you find fruits and vegetables that are winners in your family.

As a resounding theme this month, farmers markets and stands are a great place to peruse and pick up vegetables, fruit and other products during the week that can be incorporated into meal planning. The produce is almost always fresher straight from the farm than in the supermarket, and many times you can taste the difference-making eating vegetables a little more fun and palatable. Make it a goal to start small and continue to make changes that will benefit your body today and in the future!

You can hardly watch the news without seeing an ad for a new food product masqueraded as a “healthy,” “all natural,” snack.  More often than not, there is nothing natural or healthy about those foods.  With childhood obesity rates skyrocketing, it’s important to teach your kids how to make healthy choices, and what better way than to let them make nutritious snacks that are easy and delicious!

The first step is setting aside a low cabinet or low refrigerator shelf where kids can access food to make snacks on their own.  As school and sports begin to once again crowd your family’s schedule, you could also make some simple homemade granola bars or trail mix for a convenient, on-the-go snack for your busy bees. 

Here are some great, easy recipes for kids to make on their own.  

  1.  Vegetables and Dip – Keep washed and prepared veggies in a low drawer in your refrigerator with small containers of low-fat dip.

Shopping List: baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, ranch dip

  1. Fruit and Cheese Kabobs – These are a great snack that will keep the younger kids busy while they hone in on their fine motor skills.  Keep bowls of cut up fruit and cheese cubes so the kids only have to thread them on the kabob. 

Shopping List: Pineapple, apples (dip in orange juice so they don’t brown), strawberries, grapes, cheese cubes, wooden kabob sticks

  1. Yogurt Parfaits – Save money and calories by making your own sweet treat!  Plain yogurt sweetened with fresh fruit and sprinkled with some granola is a colorful, tasty treat that is healthy as well. 

Shopping List: plain yogurt, granola, fruit, frozen or fresh berries

  1. Ants on a Log – Celery sticks filled peanut butter and raisins are a good source of protein.  Peanut butter can get messy for younger children, so you may consider putting peanut butter in an icing bag (a plastic bag with the corner snipped).  They can pipe the peanut butter right on to the celery without making a mess.

Shopping List: celery sticks, peanut butter, raisins

  1. Cinnamon or Peanut Butter Toast – Learning to use the toaster is a great cooking lesson for your child.  Whole grain bread with peanut butter or lightly buttered with cinnamon sugar is a great snack that easily introduces children to the kitchen. 

Shopping List: bread, peanut butter, cinnamon and sugar

  1. Microwave Pizza – Older kids can use pita bread, sauce, cheese, and toppings to make a healthy microwave pizza themselves.  You may consider trying it yourself ahead of time to see how long it takes to melt the cheese.  You could even post a chart with the cooking times for some of their favorite snacks so they have it for future reference. 

Shopping List: pita bread, pizza sauce, pizza cheese, pizza toppings

Letting your kids make their own snacks and encouraging them to help cook dinners is a great way for them to learn healthy habits and portion sizes while spending quality time together as a family.  Here are some other fun ways to involve your kids in the kitchen!

Need some help getting started? Our Let’s Do This web portal offers endless opportunities to learn about family wellness, nutrition and medical conditions. Fort HealthCare can also give you the help and motivation you need to make healthy family choices with the NEW Movin’ and Losin’ class. This class, held every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. from September 17 to October 22, is designed for families with children ages 8 – 15 years old who are looking for ways to incorporate healthier eating and fitness habits into their everyday lifestyle. Each week, one of our Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and Occupational Therapists will cover a different topic related to diet and exercise, including a family activity utilizing Fort HealthCare’s new Railyard fitness equipment. Space is limited! Register online today or call Andrea Billinghurst at (920) 568-5244 to reserve your spot!

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