How To Raise Healthy Eaters - At Home and School

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Thank you to Revolution Foods for sponsoring this post. My advice and opinions are my own.

Trying to get your kids to eat more vegetables? The struggle is real. I was doing pretty well until my baby turned into a toddler. Now there’s a lot of spitting and handpicking vegetables off the plate.
Between 2007-2010, 93% of children in the U.S. didn’t eat the recommended amount of vegetables – 1-3 cups per day. That’s not only bad for children’s health long-term, but it also affects them in the short-term. Food is fuel for our bodies. If kids don’t consume the right type, their bodies and minds won’t function optimally. Fruits and vegetables are filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, water, and fiber.
Most of us know this. The hard part is doing it. Lack of time to prep healthy food, picky eaters, and no time for family dinners makes it difficult. But there’s something else that makes it hard too: Parents aren’t the only ones feeding their kids.
Sixty million children spend most of their days in schools or childcare. If your kid doesn’t yet, they will some day. Branson’s only 19 months, and I’m already cringing at the thought of him being served mush carrots (that end up in the trash) and only eating the dinner roll when he starts school. Wasted nutrients and wasted food.
Since we don’t have control over everything our kids eat, how do you get them to eat more vegetables at both home and school?

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Take notes from Revolution Foods, a company started by two moms on a mission to build lifelong healthy eaters by providing access to nutritious, affordable meals to students and families throughout the country, including right here in the Greater Boston Area. The company is leading the charge to change the food scene in schools – not just for health outcomes but for academic performance as well. Last fall, Revolution Foods became the healthy school meals provider for Boston Public Schools (BPS) and select charter schools (more reasons for me to stay in Boston ;)). Their meals are nutritious, chef-crafted, kid-inspired, locally sourced, and prepared fresh daily right in Hyde Park.
But, whether you live in Boston or not, you can learn from their approach.

ere are six things they’re doing in schools that you can do at home to raise a healthy eater:

  1. Add flavor to vegetables – Would you eat the vegetables you serve your children? Are you giving them plain carrots or peas on the side? Move past viewing vegetables as a side and make them part of the main dish. Add spices, herbs, seasonings, and sauces. Experiment with cuisines from other cultures. Revolution Foods serves bean and cheese pupusas and sweet potato-crusted fish sandwiches in the Boston region, not only to be culturally relevant, but also to make their dishes taste better.
  2. Cut back on processed foods – Food tastes better when it’s real food. Of course there are times when you need something quick and easy. But, instead of running through the fast food line, reach for the “fast food” in your own pantry. Stock up on eggs, beans, whole grains, sweet potatoes, baby spinach, and frozen vegetables. You can cook these in a flash without added sugar and salt, plus they stay good for more than a week. Revolution Foods is the only company on a national level to offer a clean label supply chain, enabling the company to provide a great balance of real foods and composition of nutritious, high-quality meals. All meals made by Revolution Foods are prepared fresh daily and are free from artificial ingredients, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and high fructose corn syrup. Let’s aim for the same standards at home. 
  3. Offer variety – I hated tomatoes when I was growing up. Now I like cherry tomatoes but won’t eat sliced tomatoes on a sandwich. Taste buds change over time. Sometimes we need to try vegetables prepared in a different way. The same goes for your kids. Switch things up. The more variety we have, the more we eat. Your job as the parent is to provide a variety of fruits and vegetables. Your child’s job is to choose which ones they want to eat. 
  4. Buy locally  - Fruits and vegetables lose nutrients as they travel. Take your kids to your local farmer’s market. The produce will be more nutritious, and the experience will be educational for your kids. Ask the farmers where and how the food was grown. Buying food locally also supports the environment and local economy.
  5. Talk to your kids about nutrition – Tell your kids why you want them to eat more fruits and vegetables and less junk food. And please don’t mention their weight. Instead, focus on the importance of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins for doing well in school and sports. Don’t force your kids to finish something just for the sake of cleaning their plate. Get them in touch with their hunger signals. We shouldn’t stop eating when our plate is clean. We should stop eating when we’re full.  
  6.  Invite your kids into the kitchen - Revolution Foods has partnered with local organizations like Cooking Matters, Food Corps, and CommonWealth Kitchen to lead cooking workshops and monthly vegetable tastings. This educates kids and gets them excited about healthy food. Let your kids help you in the kitchen. Host your own monthly vegetable tasting. Get your kids involved in planning the weekly menu, shopping for the food, and cooking it. Children are more likely to try a new food if they helped prepare it.
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It’s hard to help our children establish healthy eating habits and often it can feel like a lost cause. Don’t give up; just mix it up. Remember food preferences change over time. It’s not our job to force anything but rather to educate and inspire our kids. I’m excited about the steps that Revolution Foods is taking to change the school food scene and provide equitable access to great tasting, nutritious meals throughout Boston. They’re doing the work in schools. Time for us to get to work at home.

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For more information on Revolution Foods, check out their website here: Since becoming the school meals provider for BPS in Fall 2017, the company has expanded its capacity to produce more than 750,000 meals per week and has streamlined operations to enable a wider selection of fresh local and regional produce, high quality proteins and rBST-free dairy products in its meals. The result – Revolution Foods has served 5.3 million healthy meals to students in Boston to-date and continues its commitment to increasing capacity in order to serve an even larger set of schools in the region.