5 Healthier Choices Your Family Can Make In the Kitchen

March is National Nutrition Month

By Julianna Gilleo, MS, RDN, & Publisher of Macaroni KID Hunterdon, N.J. March 9, 2024

As a mom to three wonderful kids, I understand firsthand the daunting idea of making dietary changes within a busy family life. Balancing nutritious meals with the endless demands of parenting can feel like an uphill battle.

But as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I know the immense benefits that thoughtful dietary choices can bring to both our health and the environment.

Every March we celebrate National Nutrition Month. This year the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is focused on how we can “Go Beyond the Table.” 

The focus of the month is to encourage mindfulness about the impact daily nutrition choices have on well-being and the environment. This is the perfect time to consider making small dietary changes which, over time, can play a significant role in improving the health of your family. 

As a mom and a dietitian, I have five realistic ways that you can help your family make healthier choices, not only this month but all year.

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1. Practice mindful eating 

Mindful eating is a practice that helps kids develop a stronger connection with food. Encourage your family to focus on the present and connect thoughts and feelings to the food that fuels our bodies. 

Mindfulness means placing our full attention on something. There should be no distractions such as tablets, phones, tv, etc. Try to stay in the moment, relax, and notice thoughts and feelings (both physically and emotionally). 

Explaining mindfulness, and why it is important, helps children recognize hunger and fullness cues, slow down when eating, and fully enjoy snacks or meals! 

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2. Go go get H2O! 

Water doesn't have to be boring! Try to infuse water with lemons, limes, berries, cucumber, or mint for added flavor. In our house it is all about the water bottles. My 3-year-old won't leave the house without her "Frozen" water bottle. You also can try to add fun straws, little umbrellas, or other festive decorations. 

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3.  Eat the rainbow

No, I am not talking about candy! Color your life with more fruits and vegetables. 

Every time you add a fruit or vegetable to a dish, you are adding flavor, nutrition, and texture. The more colors, the better! All of us need this variety each day. 

If you use a rainbow as a guide, you will get the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy. The color makes a difference because plants also contain phytochemicals (which have health promoting properties) that are related to the colors of the plant.

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4. Bring your lunch

You can eat healthier and save money when you pack your own lunch. You want to make sure that you pick foods from a variety of food groups so you can maximize your energy for the day. Try to pick colorful fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk, Greek yogurt, 100% whole-wheat bread, brown rice or pasta, and lean protein sources such as chicken, fish, beans, or eggs.

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5. Get the kids in the kitchen! 

Spending time in the kitchen is not only a great way to bond with your kids, but it also is a confidence builder. Cooking can make your child feel accomplished and proud, it encourages them to think. 

Assign some age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen, for example, measuring ingredients, pressing the button on the blender, or being in charge of the timer. It is so sweet to see their faces as they serve family and friends the dish that they just made. Plus, having older kids involved makes less work for you! 

Julianna Gilleo, MS, RDN is the publisher of Macaroni KID Hunterdon, N.J.