Kids Eat Right Month is the perfect time for families to focus on the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages families to shop smart, cook together and eat right (Kidseatright.org). Don’t know where to start? Activity Tips from the Meijer Healthy Living Dietitians make it easy for your family to eat wholesome, nutritious meals:

• Shop Smart. To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.

Activity tip: Have your child plan one meal, using MyPlate as a guide (www.chooseMyPlate.gov). Once planned, help them create a shopping list using recipes and the foods needed to prepare their meal. At the grocery store, have them gather the items on their shopping list, checking off each item as they add it to the shopping cart. This is a great activity to teach your child healthy meal planning and how to stick to a budget when food shopping!


Examples:
Pre-K/Kindergarten: Breakfast with cereal, milk, and fruit (berries or bananas)

Elementary: Prepare a healthy lunch of their choice such as a wrap sandwich with vegetable sticks, fruit cup, and low fat milk.

Upper Elementary/Middle School: Plan a dinner meal that they can help prepare at home such as a Skillet Pasta (such as the Meijer “Ready for You” Skillet Lasagna Recipe), with a tossed salad and fruit with yogurt for dessert.


• Cook Healthy. Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of meals. They will learn about food and may even be enticed to try new foods they helped prepare.

Activity Tip: Children of all ages can participate in preparing meals.
Young children can help stir, scoop and mix; activities that also build fine motor skills.
School age children can measure ingredients to help reinforce math skills (bring fractions to life by having children compare sizes of nested measuring cups).
Teens can prepare meals from start to finish, with your supervision, to gain independence and experience meal preparation beyond the microwave!

• Eat Right. Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day’s experiences with one another.  The benefits of family meals go beyond good nutrition. Research indicates that those families who eat together have a stronger bond, and children have higher self-confidence and perform better in school.

Be active! Regular physical activity, whether it’s structured sports or just outdoor play, is vital to strengthen muscle and bones, promote a healthy body weight, reduce diabetes risk, support learning, develop social skills and build self-esteem. Kids are encouraged to be active for 60 minutes per day.

Family-friendly recipes

Overnight oatmeal

Serves 8

Prepare day before: Coat inside of 5-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.  Add 2 cups steel cut oats and 8 cups of water to slow cooker. Cover and turn heat setting to low.  Cook overnight until oats are tender and creamy for 7-8 hours.

In the morning: Serve with your favorite toppings like fresh, canned, frozen or dried fruit, peanut butter, nuts, spices (cinnamon, pumpkin spice, allspice, ginger)

Apple Pie a la Mode: Greek vanilla yogurt, ½ cup diced apple, sprinkle of cinnamon

Tropical Delight: low fat milk, ½ cup pineapple chunks, sliced banana

Blueberry Bliss: ½ cup blueberries, sliced banana, 1 tablespoon sliced almonds

The Very Healthy Caterpillar

Serves 1

1 tbsp. hummus
1 Flatout Multigrain with Flax flatbread (by deli counter)
2 slices Meijer deli chicken breast
1 slice reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup Earthbound Farm Organic baby spinach
½ Topline Farms seedless cucumber, cut into thin strips, divided
1 skewer stick
1 SUNSET CAMPARI brand cocktail tomato
2 olive slices

Directions:
1. Spread hummus on flatbread. Add deli chicken, cheese, spinach, half of the cucumbers and roll flatbread (do not tuck in ends). Trim ends off flatbread and cut flatbread into five separate rolls. Slide rolls onto skewer.

2. Slide tomato onto skewer for head. Cut slits in tomato and insert black olives for eyes. Cut slits in top of tomato and insert cucumbers for antenna.

3. Use remaining cucumbers to represent legs by each roll.

Recipe adapted from www.produceforkids.com

Easy skillet lasagna

Serves 6              

Ingredients:

8 ounces dry bow tie pasta, uncooked (try whole wheat)

3/4 pound Italian pork sausage (substitute lean ground beef)

2 cans (14.5 oz. each) Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano, undrained

1 can (6 oz. each) Tomato Paste

2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Nutrition tip: you can add more veggies including spinach, sliced mushrooms, bell pepper, squash

Directions:

1.) Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt.

2.) Meanwhile, cook sausage/ground beef in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 7 minutes or until crumbled and no longer pink, stirring occasionally; drain. Add undrained tomatoes and tomato paste; mix well. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.) Drain pasta; stir into tomato mixture. Stir in 1 cup cheese; sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese over top. Cover skillet with lid. Cook 5 minutes more or until cheese melts.

Serve with Dole® bagged salad, mixed berries and low fat milk

Tina Miller, MS RD Meijer Healthy Living Advisor, www.meijerhealthyliving.com