Eating A Healthy Dinner: A Simple Matter Of Planning

Getting a child to eat healthy food can be a monumental challenge for any parent. However, studies show that all of the haggling, arguing, and hassle is actually worth the effort as a healthy diet leads to enhanced academic performance in school. In fact, malnourished children often struggle in school because they are more likely to miss school, score lower on standardized tests, and repeat grades. Worse, bad eating habits can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes, that not only affect academic performance but a student’s ability to participate in extracurricular activities.

When you follow the chain of negative events, starting with bad nutrition, it is easy to see how a child’s academic career can suffer. For example, bad nutrition leads to a weakened immune system, which leads to increased doctor visits and missed school days. Missing school makes it harder for students to maintain their grades or keep up with lessons. Even if a student can keep up, bad nutrition can interfere with their ability to accept and digest information. Too much sugar, for instance, can cause attention deficit disorder-like symptoms and chronic headaches, making learning nearly impossible.

These particular nutrition problems usually arise when kids are left in charge of preparing their own breakfast and lunch. If they don’t skip meals all together, they usually are making poor food choices. Out of convenience, kids are drawn to processed foods that are high in sugar, sodium and fat. This brand of malnutrition is particularly insidious because health, growth and cognitive problems may not be noticed until a serious issue has developed.

What are some other tips for planning healthy dinners?

  • Don’t cook separate meals for picky children. If you know that your salmon and sautéed spinach will also result in you making mini hot dogs and fries for the kids, you might rethink it, not having the time or energy to make two completely separate meals. Then you suffer, and they do as well. It’s important to expose your children to a variety of foods, so make the salmon and spinach. Be sure to offer applesauce, whole wheat bread and some fruit. Then everyone gets a healthy meal and your children just might surprise you by actually eating some of the “adult” meal.
  • On weeknights, stay away from involved meals. Think of things that can be prepared in less than 45 minutes, though it’s ideal to keep your meal prep to 30 minutes whenever possible.
  • Do as much prep as you can ahead of time. If you’re planning grilled chicken and vegetables for dinner, say, then you can clean and slice your vegetables in the morning before you head out for the day. Marinate the chicken. In the evening, all that’s left is tossing a quick bag salad and grilling your meat and vegetables. This saves on clean-up time as well.
  • If you must eat out, apply the golden rules for restaurant eating: Stay away from white or heavy sauces, order oil and vinegar to dress your salad, and eat only half the entrée, pack the rest and enjoy it for lunch the next day.