Award winning health and nutrition expert Sharon Liao joined me recently to discuss simple meal planning decisions parents can make to ensure their family not only eats healthier, but has more time to spend together, just in time for back to school!
Sharon Liao: “Well, I think it all boils down to planning first of all. So the first thing that parents really want to think about is to make sure that they put a healthy breakfast on the table for their kids every single morning. Unfortunately about 50% of families rush out the door in the morning without eating any breakfast, which is a huge mistake because what you eat for breakfast really determines how much energy you’re going to have at school and at home. One thing that I really stress is to make sure you pick up something that’s not only affordable and nutritious, but also really convenient and a great example of that is cereal. And you want to choose something that really matches your family’s nutritional needs. So for instance if you want to get more fiber into your family’s diet maybe you want to pick something up like Fiber One’s new Nutty Clusters & Almond cereal. Just one bowl provides 43% of all the fiber your family needs in a day, but it’s also really delicious. It has real almonds and it’s so convenient.
But if your family is looking for something that maybe is gluten free they can look for something like the new Apple Cinnamon Chex. It’s free of any artificial flavors or coloring so it’s a really wholesome option to have in the morning. And something that’s also a really great benefit for cereal is its affordability. When you think about it, each bowl of cereal only costs about 50 cents (including the milk) and when you compare that to say going through a drive-through on the way to school or hitting the bakery you’re not only saving tons of calories, but you’re also saving a lot of money when you add it up through the course of a year.”
Candace Rose: What’s the secret to packing a delicious and healthy lunch?
Sharon Liao: “Well, there’s a couple of different things to think about when you’re packing a lunch. The first thing that a lot of parents forget to think about is what you’re actually packing that lunch in. Some people go for the traditional brown bag, but really what they should be looking for is an insulated lunch bag. You want to keep those cool foods cool because they’re going to be sitting in your child’s book bag for hours and you want to prevent any potential illness that can occur by letting those perishable items get too warm.
The next thing you want to think about is really trying to hit most of your major food group bases in that lunch, so you want to think about whole grains. It’s really important to look for whole wheat bread or English muffins or wraps for that sandwich you’re making. Some protein- maybe you’re going for some turkey or some almond or peanut butter, and then another thing you want to think about is that most kids do not get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables per day, so you want to try and fold in some fruits and veggies in your child’s lunch whether that’s maybe carrots with hummus. Another surprising option that I like for fruits and veggies is a smoothie. They’re really convenient, you just put them in a thermos and just stash them in your kids lunch. And one bonus of that is the thermos itself will actually keep your kids lunch cool, so they’ll stay cooler for longer and you can add in a serving of fruits in there as well as some dairy. Something that I really like for that is Jamba’s At Home Greek Yogurt protein smoothie. It’s loaded with protein from the Greek yogurt and it’s got a serving of fruits and veggies in there. It’s made with the real fruit, you just pop it in from your freezer into the blender with some apple juice, blend it up. It’s only 130 calories and you’ve added a serving of fruit to your child’s lunch so that’s a great option.”
Candace Rose: How about when it comes to dinner?
Sharon Liao: “When it comes to dinner, something that I really stress is to plan ahead. So something that moms often don’t do, but I really recommend is to sit down at the start of each week- maybe set aside 30 minutes or an hour to plan out what you’re going to be eating at every meal; and then also to write out a grocery store list. When you know what you’re going to buy then you thwart those days when you rush around all day and you come home and your kids ask “what’s for dinner mom?” And you don’t know what to serve so you end up ordering takeout or pizza or something like that. So you want to really prevent that from happening by planning in advance.
You also want to sit down and think about what you’re going to make from scratch and what you’re going to buy premade. Buying premade is a great time saving tip for a lot of parents. You can get a rotisserie chicken that all you have to do is heat up, and it’s really delicious and nutritious, or you might want to think of something premade like traditional mashed potatoes from Simply Potatoes. They’re available in the refrigerated section of your supermarket, and what I really about these is they’re made from whole ingredients like real potatoes, real butter and you just heat them and eat them. You just put them in the microwave for five minutes, you pair that with a rotisserie chicken, a salad or some veggies and you’ve got a complete dinner right there on the table in minutes.
And what’s important about that is when you cut down on that prep time and you’re able to sit down with your kids you can use that time to really spend some quality family time together. You can go around the table and everyone can say one thing that happened to them that day at work or at school, and use that as quality family bonding time. I think it really gets lost during a really busy season like back to school season.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any tips when it comes to dessert?
Sharon Liao: “When it comes to dessert, something that I really recommend is everyone loves a sweet treat at the end of a meal, but I recommend trying to fold in a little bit of nutrition into that sweet treat as well. A great option is something that we discussed before, and that’s actually a smoothie. They’ve got that creaminess of the yogurt as well as that fruit, and you can serve it at the end of a meal and it’s a delicious sweet treat. Something else that’s really yummy and that’s also a great dessert is to serve fruit dip. Kids absolutely love to dip so maybe you want to blend together some yogurt with some honey or some cinnamon, or you can blend yogurt with a little bit of peanut butter and some honey and that serves a little bit of sweetness and you can pair that with fresh fruit- cut up apples, diced bananas. And it’s really fun sometimes to actually put those on a skewer and use that to dip into the dip. Not only is that a fun dessert but you’re getting some protein in there as well as a serving of fruits in there.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share?
Sharon Liao: “Well, another tip that I really recommend for back to school is teaching your kids about nutrition in general. So if you’re going to the grocery store it’s a good idea to involve them in the process because studies show that kids who are involved in healthy eating decisions, they carry those decisions for life and they eat much more healthy later on in life than those who don’t. So that’s a tip that I have- just involve your kids in the decision making process when it comes to meals and snacks.”
Candace Rose: Where can we go for more information?
Sharon Liao: “Well, Candace Rose you can go to a couple of different websites. For information on these new delicious cereals you can go to CerealBenefits.com. For information on these yummy mashed potatoes you can go to SimplyPotatoes.com and for some details on these tasty smoothies, you can go to AtHomeSmoothies.com.”