September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Recent research shows that one out of three children and two out of three adults struggle with weight issues or obesity.1 One of the best places to fight the battle for family health and win against obesity is in the kitchen. As a dad, you can lead the charge with these power tips for equipping your family with healthy lunches.
- Watch out for surprise sodium
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination from the Center for Disease Control, most children from ages six to 18 are consuming too much sodium.1 As dads, you can help get a handle on out of control sodium intake by keeping an eye out for common high sodium foods like pizza, white bread; chicken patties/nuggets; and canned soups.
- Have a plan
Before going shopping, make a plan for what lunches you can make by thinking about what your kids already like, and find healthy alternatives and new recipes to try. For more help on the right ingredients and recipes to make healthy lunches attractive to your kids, check out these recipes for healthy eating from the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge sponsored by LetsMove.gov. With recipes from kids in every state, you can find chicken tortilla soup from Idaho and fish tacos from Maryland! Find more healthy eating tips on LetsMove.gov.
- Shop with health savvy
Fighting the good fight with the healthy lunch starts with making sure you have the right food in the refrigerator. To help make sure you have the right supplies, follow these smart tips:
Shop the outside of the store first: Most grocery stores group like items. Packaged foods that tend of be higher in sugar and sodium, sweets, and other diet dangers are usually together in the aisles. The outside edge of the store tends to be where there are coolers that keep fresh foods, is generally a great place to start looking for healthy ingredients.
Know your ingredients: Another way to keep your family healthy is to know what is in your favorite products. Monitoring food labels and charts for obesity triggers, like high sodium or sugars, can be a great way to moderate negative calories that might sneak into your family’s lunchbox.
For more strategies on how to shop healthy, check out our post 5 Grocery Shopping Tips for Dads for a Healthier Household.
- Incorporate Kids into the Process
If you really want to turn lunch prep into healthier kids, make sure you incorporate your children into the process. Whether it is helping prepare or assemble agreements or having them help you read labels and find items in the grocery store, interactive lunch preparation can create major wins. The conversations, questions, and good habits it will generate can pay off big for the long term.
For help incorporating your kids into the food selection and preparation process, visit the Activity Sheet Library at ChooseMyPlate.gov.
- Don’t forget the Drinks
Lunch is not just about what kids eat, but the drink of choice can have a huge bearing on calorie intake. Some sodas contain hundreds of calories and grams of sodium. When planning, shopping, and preparing for healthy lunches do not leave out this very important detail in the planning. While kids may not want to have water with lunch every day, keeping an eye on drink calories is an easy way to promote health. Naturally flavoring water with lemon or other fruit, choosing milk, or 100% juice boxes are great options for healthy drinks for healthy lunches.
These are five of our recommendations for healthier lunches that create fitter families, healthier kids, and fight childhood obesity. Share some of your healthy lunch tips on our Facebook page.
Jovan Hackley, National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse team member and outreach and strategy consultant