By: Cindy Nyquist (Guest Blog Writer – ECFE Teacher)
It is that time of the year when we try and make some positive changes! ECFE and School Readiness is trying to help our school snack be a much more healthy experience for our students. I am an ECFE teacher, not a dietitian, but here are some healthy suggestions that I have incorporated on my journey to better nutrition.
I think food is very complicated because it starts with how we were brought up. My parents grew up on farms where they did physical labor and ate 6 times a day. I don’t do physical labor, but unfortunately I grew up eating 3 meals and 3 sugary snacks. Eating healthy snacks was not done. I wasn’t exposed to raw vegetables with the exception of a carrot or even fresh vegetables. I don’t want to be offensive, but I don’t think anyone is going to jump up and down about a canned vegetable. When I see the kids that are exposed to fresh vegetables eating a piece of cucumber or a cherry tomato like it is the best thing ever, I have real regrets for not serving raw vegetables to my children. They say it takes 20 exposures to a new food to like it, so keep trying with those fresh vegetables!
If I could have a do over with my kids, I would swap out the orange juice they had with a green smoothie for breakfast. That way they are getting a vegetable even for breakfast. Spinach mixed with frozen fruit is very palatable! It is better for their blood sugar level also, and the increase in diabetes is definitely a motivator for wanting to have better nutrition! There are many inexpensive options for blending a smoothie. You can put beans in a smoothie and not even taste them, which is a good source of protein and fiber. I would also serve my children steel cut oatmeal or healthy multigrain pancakes instead of the high sugar, over-processed cereal they ate.
When I first started on a journey to better nutrition, I started with the goal of taking what I was already eating and adding more vegetables to it. Instead of tacos, I switched to chicken fajitas with peppers and onion; instead of spaghetti with just meat, I added zucchini, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. Now I look at a bunch of veggies and get excited. It has so much more texture and color than what I had been eating.
Next, I started to overhaul my starches. Out with the white bread and pasta, white rice, and potatoes. In with the multigrain foods you will prefer if you continue eating them! Yukon Gold’s or sweet potatoes are good! Grains like quinoa are now more easily available. You need to have the mindset that you will someday like this new choice.
Now I am working on getting more proteins. I try and add beans to dishes, eat almonds as a snack, and an avocado on my eggs instead of cheese.
Snacks can be a real downfall to good nutrition. Try and think swapping what you’re enjoying for something better. Try eating popcorn without butter instead of chips. Instead of fruit snacks, offer apple slices to dip in almond butter or yogurt. They have many healthy Popsicle recipes online and you can make them in a Dixie cup with a stick.
I hope that you implement some healthy choices that keep moving in the right direction in 2017!