|The USDA's Healthy eatin on a Budget program makes understanding how families can make healthy choices with free online planning tools.|
The school bell will soon ring one last time and the kids will be playing in the sprinklers, sleeping late and no doubt asking you, “What’s for dinner?” Growing children are hungry, but it doesn’t mean they should be diving head first into a giant bag of cheese puffs.
Families want to keep their kids healthy, and summertime is notorious for snacks like ice cream, burgers, and other indulgences. The Choose My Plate initiative by the U.S. Department of Agriculture understands and wants to help keep families healthy and also keep that grocery budget from spiraling out of control.
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to healthy eating is knowing where to start with planning. The new Healthy Eating on a Budget program by the USDA includes free online downloads like sample menus, grocery shopping lists of ingredients and recipes for some suggested menu items.
If you already have an idea of what you’ll be cooking for the week, there are also blank templates for organizational tools to create menus and shopping lists.
INDfamlily really loves the link to smart shopping tips for each aisle including how to read price tags on shelves and nutritional labels on products.
We give the USDA’s Healthy Eating on a Budget tool two big thumbs up — and we encourage you to share it with your kids in these quick and easy ways:
Let the kids help fill in a blank menu with some of their favorite meals and then tell them you will review making sure they have made smart and healthy choices — you might want to review the choosemyplate.gov site first for suggestions on how to create a balanced meal, or use the pre-prepared menus as a guide.
Next, let them help make the grocery list. For your little junk foodies, get each child to list one fruit and one vegetable they like and purchase those in place of those not-so-real-fruit snacks and faux veggie sticks
Pick one meal from the weekly list that you will help prepare as a family. Even the youngest children can feel included with easy tasks like wiping lids of cans or getting a plastic bowl and spoon to pretend cook with — the smallest initiatives can create a desire to learn more about the vital life skill for health: Cooking one’s own meals.
Sit at the table together for dinner — when busy schedules allow — and turn off all TVs and other distraction devices like cell phones. This is an unplugged dinner, folks. Talk about what everyone liked about the meal and maybe some ideas for what they can help make in the future.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive and you don’t have to be a Julia Child to cook — all you really need to know is how to read. So get a recipe and get cooking. Not exactly what you were hoping it would taste like? Don’t give up — try it again and show your kids that dinner doesn’t always come from a drive thru.