Change up your Child’s After-School Routine

By: Claudia Malloy           Posted on: 04.14.2016

Does your child’s after-school regime encourage healthy nutrition habits? Preparing food WITH your children, infusing healthy snacks, physically active games and creative learning activities into their after-school schedule can lead them to a healthier life style. Easier said than done – right? Wrong. These simple tips can make all the difference in creating a healthy after-school routine:

  • Provide children with physical activity opportunities every day—at least 30 minutes for each 3 hours of program time.
  • Get unplugged! TV and electronics during family or one-on-one time are NOT an option!
  • Serve fruits and vegetables every day – – need we say more?
  • Serve more whole grains instead of white flour products.
  • Limit foods with extra sugars. You can replace sugar-sweetened beverages with natural sweeteners like fruits.
  • Just say NO to Tran’s fats. Serve foods low in saturated fat.

Little hands can help! Teaching healthy behavior works best when kids experience food prep or taste testing (with you, of course). Preparing and trying new foods with kids is a great way to pique their interest in healthy foods. FACT: Children who help fix a meal or snack are more likely to try their own creations, unless it’s a mud-pie!

So where do we start? Before choosing a recipe, consider your storage options and shopping patterns. For instance, if you have limited fridge space, it may a challenge finding room for mounds of yummy fruits or vegetables – look for pre-cut produce instead, or shop, chop and serve on the same day to save space! Some recipes may require fancy kitchen gadgets such as a blender, hotplate or stove.

Channel your inner-child and you’ll fascinate kids in the kitchen with these quick tips …

  • Work with kid-friendly recipes designed to get kids cookin’ (measuring, mixing, etc.). You may need to do some advance preparation, such as chopping vegetables.
  • Let children do as much as possible! Children can help slice soft items with a dull knife, grate vegetables and measure ingredients.
  • While most recipes list specific ingredients, use your imagination! Just about any fruit can be part of a fruit kabob, just as there are different vegetables used for dipping.
  • Purchase produce in season or readily available to your area, and allow the children to choose what to add to their own creations!

Staging a taste test is a fun way to show-off new and nutritious foods to little chefs. Use foods that are familiar, safe and easy to prepare. A taste test is easy to conduct, but requires a little organization and detective work.

  1. Determine whether or not any food allergies need to be considered.
  2. Prepare food samples ahead of time if possible.
  3. Clean work and surface areas, and wash and dry all produce.
  4. Have all chefs wash their hands . . . with soap.
  5. Funny food names, like “kiwi” may be a turn off to a child. Before you get started, introduce the tasting before you hand out food.
  6. Do not force a child to try a food; however, explain that although they may not think they are going to like the new food, tasting is a good way to find out. Dish out high-fives when they try something new!
  7. Consider rating the foods you try on a rate sheet – and no talking. Talking out loud may sway your true feelings about the food. Summarize your feelings, before deciding whether or not you would make the recipe again.
  8. Stir – Taste – Repeat – – and serve up the foods that they like again!

Keep it simple, stupid! Remember – – you can host a taste test with just one new food, or several foods for comparison. Create simple themes by food group or type such as: Fruits & Vegetables, Whole Grains, Dairy, Beverages, and Snacks.

Preparing snacks and taste tests not only provide wonderful experiences for your kids, but they may work magic for your entire family, too! Work a taste-test into a Family Fun Night or a designated night that you eat together. Children will be proud of their new skills, and you will be thrilled to discover healthy foods that your children (and your family) like to eat.

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