This month, I’m partnering with the National Milk Life Campaign’s Back-to-School program. I was compensated for writing this post, but all opinions are (as always!) my own.
Nobody’s perfect. It’s a reality that I promote on this blog and something I show in plain view in my What We Ate Wednesday feature. Sometimes my dinner plate looks Instagram-ready, but occasionally I stand over the sink and eat leftovers. When it comes to good nutrition, some days are better than others for my kids as well.
But despite the everyday ups and downs that come with life, there are a handful of habits I hope to teach my kids–and that I hope will stick with them:
1. MILK WITH MEALS
Calcium needs are 1,000 milligrams a day for kids ages 4-8, and those needs climb to 1,300 milligrams a day at age 9. That’s the equivalent of about four servings of dairy every day. My kids often have yogurt, cheese, and some occasional calcium-fortified orange juice (plus plant foods like broccoli and almonds that have smaller amount of calcium). But by serving milk with meals, I know they’re getting at least 2-3 servings on most days, plus protein, vitamin D, potassium, and other essential nutrients.
2. FRUITS & VEGGIES AT LUNCH
Veggies almost always make an appearance at dinner, and fruit is a fixture at snack time. But each of my boys also has some kind of fruit (and often a veggie) in his lunch box too. Though my second grader will happily take all manner of produce—from sliced grapefruit to leftover roasted broccoli—my older son is more finicky about packed items. I give him carrots and bell peppers with ranch, and unsweetened applesauce and fruit cups. Most kids don’t meet the daily requirement for produce (I’m sure there are days mine don’t either!) and packing them at lunch means another opportunity to get what they need—and teach them that fruits and veggies simply belong with meals.
3. WATER WHEN YOU’RE THIRSTY
Besides milk and some calcium-fortified juice, water is the default beverage in our house. I don’t keep soda around (except for a stomach-bug-emergency stash of ginger ale), and the kids get sweetened drinks like punch and lemonade at parties and occasionally at restaurants. I’ve long struggled to get enough fluids each day and didn’t grow up enjoying the taste of plain water, so drinking plenty of straight-up water is something I encourage my kids to do every day.
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4. WHOLE GRAINS MOST OFTEN
Not every grain in our house is whole. I sometimes buy bagels made with white flour. I also stick to white flour when I make homemade pizza crust or French bread. But our sandwich bread, pasta, and cereal is whole grain. I want my kids to grow up liking the flavor and the chewy, hearty texture of whole grains, which have more protein, fiber, and vitamins than refined grains.
5. SWEETS IN SMALL AMOUNTS
Each of my boys has a ziptop bag in a cupboard that contains all of the candy that they bring into the house from parties and holidays. They can access their bags and know they can have something each day (or they can have a portion of a homemade dessert if we happen to have some).
What are the health habits you try to teach at home?