Back to school. It's more than just arming your kids for school with newly sharpened pencils and shiny notebooks. Each fall it becomes a juggling act for me to try and get everyone (including myself) back into a routine and to keep my family happy and healthy while doing so. August rolls around and without fail schedules quickly fill up with homework, soccer practice and dance classes. But whether you're a stay-at-home parent or a working mom, your role as nutritional gatekeeper during this time of year remains imperative.
According to a 10-year forecast study LUNA conducted last year with Institute for the Future, The Power of Snacking Study, we found that A) women are adopting new eating habits or "restaged patterns of eating," meaning skipping meals, constantly snacking, and eating at non-traditional times and B) women are the ones making the food choices and ultimately passing their eating habits onto their families.
At the end of the school day, it comes down to the issue of how do we, as moms, who have taken upon eating on-the-go as a result of our overflowing schedules, also find time to set a good nutrition example for our children (and each other)? Here are some tips I've found to be successful during this time of year.
1. Plan ahead. Snacking due to a busy schedule isn't setting a bad example for your kids. But the choice of snack may. Make the best choices for your family by planning ahead -- make Sunday the day you grocery shop, make a menu for dinners and cut up all fruit and vegetables in advance for easy access. Be smart about the food you bring into the house (and how you leave it for hungry hands).
2. Make your snacking time family time. According to the study, women still view meals as important moments for personal connection. So, if your family isn't able to come together at the dinner table every night, try instead packing a snack to enjoy with your kids while taking them to soccer practice.
3. Bring mindfulness and pleasure back into snacking. It's not bad to let ourselves indulge in our cravings once in a while. Focusing on eating with more intention and awareness, and less criticism and judgment, will help you feel less guilty about having that cookie -- and you'll be able to show your kids the same attitudes to help shape how they approach their treats.
4. Turn to technology. Increasingly, women are looking to online content and apps to help digest the world of food and nutrition. From healthy recipes for meals and snacks, to answers to your nutrition questions -- you can get them at the click of a button while running to your yoga class in between drop-offs at soccer practice and piano.
5. Find help. It never hurts to ask for help, whether it be family, friends, or hired! Encourage sharing between your friends and family of their tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy household. Building your own group of resources will help assure you're making the right choices and stream-line decisions in the kitchen.
It may take time to figure out the best system that works for you and your family, but by adopting some of these tips into your routine, and by keeping a positive mindset on nutrition and snacking, come fall you can feel confident that you are setting an example for your children to be healthy and happy eaters.
Follow Tara DelloIacono Thies, RD on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TaradellTells