New Year, Nu-trition: Schools Support Healthy Eating Resolutions

When looking to make healthier eating choices, it’s best to go right to the experts for tips! The same can be said for getting school-aged children to eat healthier in the New Year. The tried-and-true techniques school nutrition professionals have successfully used in the school cafeteria to get students to consume healthier food options can easily translate to good habits at home.

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Click to watch Heather D’Ambrosi of Hillsborough Schools (Fla) offer tips for parents looking to increase their child’s healthy eating habits.

Heather D’Ambrosi, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Specialist of Hillsborough School District, (FL) explained that customizable menu items are often student favorites. These could range from build-your-own chicken sliders or rice bowls to designing your own salads using fresh salad bar ingredients. D’Ambrosi encourages parents to offer a variety of condiments or dips that children can choose from to help them consume more fruits and vegetables at home. Low fat dressings, hummus, spices and seasonings are a simple way to add a different flavor and entice youngsters to eat more raw produce.

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Click to watch Shannon Gleave of Glendale Elementary Schools (AZ) talk about creating a kaleidoscope of colors on your child’s plate.

Finger foods or smaller bites increase the chances of younger students trying new menu items, said Shannon Gleave, RDN, SNS, for Glendale Elementary Schools (AZ). Options like street tacos, chicken skewers or pre-cut fruits and vegetables are easier to hold and eat, helpful for younger children, but also enjoyable for teenage students in the cafeteria.Screen Shot 2019-01-29 at 10.37.45 AM.png Children commonly eat with their eyes, so if it looks colorful and bright, they are more likely to give it a try. School nutrition professionals have seen an increase in consumption of fresh produce if fruits and veggies are offered in a salad bar setting or sliced into creative shapes. Parents can offer their children baked beet chips, less intimidating and easier to eat than a whole roasted beet.

Getting children to try new foods can be difficult, but trying to adopt some small changes can make it easier to sneak in something new. Swap out those cereals and breads with whole grain versions of a child’s favorite – a simple way to up the nutrients in an already popular food. Use less sodium or lower sugar options when meal planning. When making that stir fry – parents can add vegetables their children wouldn’t normally try by themselves. Mix in whole grain noodles and top it with a low-sodium sauce – give kids a taste of something new with something familiar for a subtle healthy twist!

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Click here to watch Wrenshall Schools (MN) Food Service Director Valerie Dahl discuss ways to get children to eat healthier in the New Year.

Valerie Dahl, Food Service Director at Wrenshall School District (MN), likes to include  interesting fresh ingredients, like blood oranges, jicama sticks or lima beans with meals. These foods resemble ingredients children are likely familiar with, allowing them to be adventurous without over-doing it. Likewise, parents can provide opportunities for children to sample small portions of new types food at meals.

Schools have increased fruit and vegetable options, serve a variety of whole grain-rich grains and lowered the sodium on meals to meet regulations stemming from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. School nutrition professionals are at the front-line of what works with children’s palates and have great ideas for parents to encourage the same healthy habits at home! For more ideas on how to get children eating healthier in 2019, get tips from Georgia school nutrition professionals in Cobb County Schools (GA).

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Click for more tips on how to get children eating healthier from Emily Hanlin of Cobb County Schools (GA).

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