Establishing Healthy Eating Routines for Back-to-School
Updated: Sep 9
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Welcome back to the second post of the Healthy at Home Habits for Back-to-School Series! If you missed the first post, which was all about setting up a home workstation, this series is a follow up to the webinar we did last month in August. There were so many requests for the recording, but I didn’t record it!
In this blog, we will be discussing some eating routines that can be easily implemented for back-to-school.
I’d like to start by saying that I’m an occupational therapist, not a dietician. What that means is that I will never recommend to someone which types of food or how much they should eat. Instead, I help them implement strategies, modify their daily routines, and connect to their bodies in order to promote their health.
One of the major concerns I’ve been hearing from parents is that their child is constantly hungry. For example:
· They just ate lunch, didn’t finish their meal, and were hungry 5 minutes later.
· They are snacking all day, even after eating full meals.
· They are constantly hungry.
I’ve addressed this from an OT standpoint in an earlier blog, but your kid might be truly hungry (If you’re concerned with how much they should be eating talk to a dietician). One question I would have is if your child is able to accurately identify their hunger level? Do they know what it feels like to be hungry or full?
To help with this, I like to use a hunger scale where I draw faces in different colors. Usually I do red/yellow/green for stoplight colors, because kids can comprehend what this means. I’ll use red to identify really hungry, yellow to be semi-hungry, and green to be full. Having kids rate this before they eat helps them learn when their body needs food.
A second question I would have is did you limit the amount of food they were able to eat at their meal? Essentially, were they ever full after their meal?
The third question would be - are they are using food to cope with their boredom/anxiety/stress? This has become very evident for some families during coronavirus!
And last – are they eating when their body tells them they are hungry? A lot of kids that I see would skip breakfast and lunch at school (either because of anxiety of eating with friends/or dislike of the food/time management), but then be ravenous later in the day leading to large binge eating episodes and continued nighttime snacking.
Other major concerns that parents express about their child’s eating routines have been:
· Not having sufficient time to prepare nutritious food
· Picky Eating
Now that we’ve talked about some things to consider, what can you do to set up some healthy eating routines?
1. Setting up meal and snack times: Eating regularly helps us regulate our blood sugar. As I mentioned above, many kids who skip meals end up binging or are unable to satisfy their hunger. Now, setting up meal/snack times doesn’t mean you have to ignore their hunger. Instead, it means to acknowledge it, and allow them to eat a full meal when they are hungry instead of mindlessly snacking or binging. You can have them rate their hunger at the beginning and end of the meal to make sure they are finished! Having time in between the meals will also let them understand and figure out when they are hungry.
2. Try meal prepping or use a meal planner: I like to discuss this with my families who are super busy and unable to find the time to make nutritious meals. By meal prepping, I mean making full or portions of meals and snacks in one batch (like muffins, meat, veggies) so that you can spend less time cooking on busy days. Using a meal planner would help you plan out your food for the week on paper. This way, you can make sure you have all the ingredients you need in the house so that busy days are a bit easier!
3. Create snack/fridge stations: These cute stations are all over Pinterest, and are a great idea for letting your kids choose the items they want for their snacks. This way, if parents are busy on phone calls/meetings during the day, and your kids is hungry, they can grab a quick and nutritious snack from their station. You can also create a lunch box station in the fridge so kids can pack their lunch or make their own breakfast.
4. Mindful eating: Many kids are sitting on the couch and snacking on foods due to boredom right now. Instead, you can try offering your kids snacks only at the table with the television off to improve their ability to mindfully eat. Instead of paying attention to the TV, this allows them to pay more attention to their food intake and if they are still hungry.
5. Make mealtime fun: This is especially important for picky eaters! To help kids eat new fruits and veggies, try making it fun, practice food art, and enjoy family time!
Of course, these are all generalized recommendations (and should not be considered occupational therapy services) If you are concerned about your child’s eating habits, and feel like you need some extra help, we offer FREE LIFESTYLE CONSULTATIONS. Just email Samantha@theot4me.com, or fill out this simple form! That way, you can tell us your specific concerns and we can let you know how we can help.
Next week, we will talk about setting up physical activity routines! Subscribe here so you don’t miss out. J
Looking to do some more reading? Check out our Free E-book – “Tips OTs Use to Get Kids Moving.”
Let’s make healthy fun,
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OT 4 ME
PO Box 273965
Boca Raton, FL 33427