DEAR GOOD SENSE EATING
How important are snacks in my child's diet?
Active children need to adequately fuel their bodies and a good way to supplement their meals is by supplying them with nutritious snacks. Try offering your child "good stuff" like fruit and veggies with dip, yogurt, smoothies, cheese, oatmeal cookies, as well as popcorn and nuts (if age-appropriate.)
Face it-if you're a parent, you're busy. Some days are so jam-packed with everything you need to accomplish that your well-intentioned healthy diet takes a hit. Big time. Those hoped-for nutritious meals are often replaced by meals you'd be embarrassed to show your in-laws. Or you're eating out ... again.
Dallas-based registered dietitian and culinary expert Robin Plotkin understands. "The challenge is great for most working parents to put a meal on the table, much less a healthy meal, even with the best of intentions." The number one reason she hears is "no time," which she says translates to "lack of planning."
Other excuses include:
Although health and nutrition may be important to you, convenience often wins. Surveys show even though fewer people are eating out during this recession, they're not necessarily cooking at home more. Instead, they're bringing in prepared food and warming it in their microwave ovens. What's the problem with this? Total strangers are preparing much of our food, and we lose the control of the ingredients used and its nutritional value.
Home cooking is a catalyst that brings family together.
A Cornell University study last fall found that being employed can result in unhealthy eating habits. Lead researcher Carol Devine found that long hours and shift work were associated with mothers and fathers depending on mealtime coping strategies. Fathers tended to skip family meals, eat while working or feed their families take-out meals. Mothers were more likely to skip breakfast and buy restaurant or prepared entrees instead of cooking. Overeating after a missed meal and eating in the car were two additional strategies.
Watching your weight? Late last year, a study found that well-educated women too busy to focus on food, as well as guilt-ridden dieters and impulsive eaters, are the most likely to show signs of obesity. Enough said.
Plotkin, who is a mother of one, has some simple tips for busy parents to put a nourishing, yet inexpensive meal on the table for their families:
Juggling work and family life can challenge even the most nutritionally aware parents to provide healthful meals to their families and themselves. By investing a little time and effort, your family will eat better now and enjoy health benefits in the future.
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.