Contributor: Jennifer Willoughby, RD, CSP, LD
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March brings about favorable weather changes and the arrival of spring. While children are getting excited for spring break and outdoor activities, adults are simply enjoying the extended daylight when they leave the office.
Although seasonal changes bring sunshine and warmth, our schedules also become busier and busier — with after-school activities, sports practices and longer evenings spent outdoors.
These hectic schedules cause many families to fall off the healthy-eating wagon. Nutritious family dinners are pushed to the side, while takeout and quick, on-the-go dinners become more frequent. And by now, many have unintentionally forgotten their New Year’s resolutions.
Get back on track
There’s no better time than the turn of the season to spring clean your lifestyle and get your family back on track. This spring, make a goal to start with small, attainable changes that can help lead to better overall health.
The objective of spring cleaning your lifestyle is to refocus yourself, your family and others toward trying new foods and making healthy choices. Out with the old and in with the new — foods, that is!
It’s often helpful to think about the foods you can have (as opposed to the foods you can’t), and focus on creating an eating style with a variety of those choices included. This may require taking bites of new foods that are unfamiliar.
It’s not always easy for kids — or adults — to be open to trying new things. So this spring, I challenge you to make it a family and community affair. Making changes on your own can be seen as a burden. So it’s important to enlist support from those around you.
Take the spring cleaning challenge
- Commit your entire family to trying a new fruit and vegetable each week during the month of March. Make this fun by having the kids rank the new food on a scale from 1 to 10.
- Plan your meals to include different colored vegetables throughout the week. For example on Mondays, you could have the kids find a new yellow vegetable to try.
- Swap out your standard grain for a whole grain half the nights of the week. Or try a new grain entirely, such as quinoa or couscous.
- If you eat out often, make it a goal to cook a meal at home one or two nights during the week.
- Substitute plant-based proteins into one of your standard recipes. For example, use beans in place of meat in chili, tacos and more.
Ways to involve the community
- Conduct a healthy recipe contest for friends and family members. Bring grandparents, neighbors or family friends to be the judges and include a non-food-related prize.
- Host an informal taste testing of new, healthier versions of recipes that you may commonly make for your children. This can be done in your household or in partnership with members of a daycare center, after-school care or even a scout troop as a fun extra-curricular.
- Organize a healthy food scavenger hunt at your local farmers market or grocery store. Everyone participating has to find the food items needed to make a healthy recipe. Then they can go home and try the recipe out for themselves.
Another important thing to consider as you aim to make healthy changes and spring-clean your lifestyle is to eat and drink the right amount for you. Often, moms, dads and kids of all shapes and sizes are given the same portion of food. Remember that part of making healthy choices is realizing what your body needs and what it could do without. A 6-year-old child has different nutrient needs than a 16-year-old athlete or any adult.
So, this spring I challenge you to spring clean your lifestyle by being involved, being creative and being open to try new things. And as always, consult with a dietitian if needed.
This post is based on one of a series of articles produced by U.S. News & World Report in association with the medical experts at Cleveland Clinic.