The lazy days of summer are officially over which, if you’re like me, is a good time to tidy up and clear the clutter of life. By the end of summer I always feel like things are a bit out of my control and the inmates (my children) have been running the asylum! I look forward to those first few weeks of school when the trash bag comes out and busted toys and chotchkies that have accumulated go in - at which point it feels like I’ve lost 10 pounds! (But shhh, don’t tell my kids…)
Similarly, over the summer we tend to pick up some less than healthy eating habits that, truth be told, have left us feeling tired, cranky, craving sugar and more caffeine. You know it’s bad when your kids are asking for coffee in the morning! So September is great time to hit the reset button and get back into some habits that support good nutrition for the whole family.
A family diet reset can be accomplished in just 3 basic steps:
1. Establish a routine - sit down for breakfast in the morning. Wake up 15 minutes earlier if you have to. Have a breakfast rich in protein, fiber and healthy fat and start the day by making each meal a priority - avoid eating on the run or grabbing fast food. Sitting down for meals helps with digestion and can prevent over-eating. Family meals are also beneficial for emotional, mental and physical health. If you don’t currently eat meals together, start small and aim to have one or two meals together each week - breakfast, lunch or dinner!
2. Clean out the fridge and pantry - toss the sugary sweet, less-than-nutritious “treats” that have lingered over the summer or have an end of summer party during which you can serve and get rid of junk foods. “Treats” are not treats if they make you feel badly. Replace processed foods with dried fruit, nuts, fresh fruit, cheese sticks, and cut up vegetables ready for dipping. Keep in mind that we should all aim to consume 5-9 cups of vegetables each day - more if raw, less if cooked. You will benefit from the nutrients and antioxidants, and the fiber will fill you up.
3. Make a plan - set aside time each weekend to plan meals and snacks for the week. This will take less time to do as it becomes a habit, and you can rotate and reuse menu plans each month. Keep it simple and make extras so you’re not cooking every night! If you need a ready-made menu plan for dinner, try an on-line program like The Fresh 20 that offers budget- and family-friendly menus and recipes. I also recommend using a list app like Our Groceries to make a shopping list that you can’t forget at home.
If you’re ready to take charge of your own and your family’s nutrition but you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with step 1 and make it a habit - it doesn’t all have to happen at once! But it does have to be a priority if you want to make it happen. Once you prioritize, plan for and praise your successes!
Stacie Haaga, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in Winchester, Virginia. She offers individualized counseling services as well as group classes, including the upcoming How to Feed Your Child class on September 14. For more information, visit www.staciehnutrition.com.