Growing Strong and Healthy: How to Create and Maintain a Healthy Food Environment at Home

Healthy Food Choices in Schools March 10, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

With busy schedules it’s often a challenge to find time to plan meals, feed the family and still get our to-do lists completed.  The simplicity of fast-food and microwavable meals has grown because they are so convenient.  Children are often the ones paying the greatest price by lacking nutrients their bodies need to grow and develop properly.  A great way to help solve this challenge is to create a home environment that is full of healthy grab-n-go items. The question now is: how to make healthier food options available with limited time? Below are some basic suggestions and ideas that may help create and maintain a better environment at home.

  1. healthy fridge

    Organize your Food!

The foods that are most easily accessible are the ones that will be eaten.  Place fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain products and milk, water or natural juices in easy to grab spots. Place easy-to-grab items on the most visible shelves in the refrigerator and cabinets, store fruit in bowls on the table or counter, and use clear storage containers for leftovers. At the same time, place less healthy options in less convenient locations! When we’re looking for something convenient, whatever is on-hand and readily accessible will be what’s grabbed and eaten. For more ways to make healthier items more readily accessible read the article, listed below, which talks about ways to stretch the dollar and still remain healthy while on the go!
  1. Start small!

Only purchase healthy foods you know will be eaten. Gradually introduce more exotic foods or different textures and tastes. The lasting changes will happen over time, little by little. Slowly replace unhealthy snacks with more nutrient rich snacks that fill those cravings. (Grode & Henderson, 2009) Lasting changes will happen in incremental steps and over a period of time.
  1. Eat together!

Eating together is a great way to not only build strong and healthy bodies, but it’s also a way of using role-modeling in a positive sense. If children see a parent, siblings or friends eating what has been prepared, they will be more inclined to try it. Make eating together fun so everyone wants to get in on the action! For more information on home meal planning read the article below.
  1. Hit the road!

Take a family walk through the neighborhood or through a local park. Physical activity is a great way to boost a healthy environment.  While many healthy changes can be made through our food choices, physical activity should not be left out. Take 30 minutes a day to do some fun physical activity. According to Harvard (2012), physical activity can be anything from relays in the yard, walking, stair climbing, swimming, sports, etc. find something the family will enjoy and get active together. Be sure to provide positive encouragement for their efforts, which will help create lasting lifestyle changes.

Contributor

Sarah Ransom-University of Tennessee 

For More Information

Prepare and Eat More Meals at Home article

Stretch Your Food Dollars At Home article

Sources

Grode, G., & Henderson, K. (2009). 10 ways to create a healthy food environment at home

Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center. (2012). Physical activity: Tips and information


 

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.