5 Back-to-School Tips to Make Healthy Habits Fun and Easy

August 19, 2022

The transition from summer into the back-to-school season means a return to routine, for parents and children alike. This is a great opportunity to introduce new healthy and sustainable habits for kids!

Healthy eating habits and sustainability practices take time to learn and implement. Starting these behaviors early and often is an effective way of making them second nature rather than a chore.

Here are some ways to empower kids to eat healthier, help out at home, and learn about sustainability.

Make healthy foods something they look forward to.

One of the biggest hurdles for parents is getting children to try new foods, especially vegetables. A great way to get kids to not only incorporate vegetables with their meals, but also enjoy them, is using the “this or that” method.

This is such a simple yet effective way to form a healthy relationship with fresh vegetables. When preparing a meal or snack, rather than asking “Would you like some broccoli with your lunch?” or “What kind of vegetable would you like with your snack?”, you can ask “Do you want yummy broccoli or crunchy carrots?”

This helps take the guesswork away from you and your child. Choices can be overwhelming for children. Giving them a few options to choose from rather than making the options too open-ended or a “yes or no” choice helps kids get excited to choose the vegetables they are eating and lets them develop their own favorites.

Encourage them early on to get excited about the process.

When it comes to eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables; the journey starts at the market and ends at the plate. Involving your child in the process of shopping and preparing these foods helps foster a good relationship with healthy foods, and allows them to learn how to make these decisions at a young age.

Whether you are at the market or shopping online, you can always find a moment to bond with your child and teach them about the different fresh produce and healthy foods available to them. An educational and engaging exercise is to encourage children (especially toddlers and younger kids) to try and eat foods that are “all of the colors of the rainbow”. While shopping, challenge them to pick out their favorite fruits and vegetables with the goal of finding all of their favorite colors. When preparing a meal or snack, you can even arrange the choices to look like a rainbow.

Have healthy snacks ready to grab and go.

When kids get home from school, they are often hungry and ready to go! Whether they are heading out to play, participate in an after-school sport or activity, or get into their homework, being prepared with healthy snacks that are ready to grab and go will ensure they have the energy needed. This also encourages healthy snacking habits, which helps to avoid the sugar crash (and hangry tantrums!) that comes with traditional quick snacks.

Set up a basket, bin, or other container at the front door or fridge with some healthy and organic favorites, such as:

Having fruits and veggies pre-cut in an environmentally friendly, stainless steel container makes it easy to assemble a quick and healthy veggie plate in less than a minute. This is a perfect snack to have at the table while kids are doing homework, coloring, or creating a craft.

This can be a great opportunity to spend some time at the end of the week having them help wash and rinse the containers and explain why it’s important to use sustainable products that reduce waste. 

Make sustainability fun and relatable.

Kids are the next generation of environmental champions.  By teaching them about sustainability and encouraging habits now, we empower them to make planet-conscious decisions in the future.

Here are some ways to get kids excited about sustainability and the planet:

  • Start a composting project. You can include scraps from fruits, vegetables, egg shells, and other items. Using compostable bags can make this less messy and easier.
  • Spend time every week talking about environmental sustainability in terms they can understand, “What do you like most about being outside?”
  • Set aside a day for sustainable craft projects like painting pasta (ideally expired pasta that would normally go to waste) and creating sensory play bins where they can organize pieces by color and shape, and texture.
  • Have a “Healthy Food of the Week”, and incorporate it into some meals. A bell pepper can be a crunchy cool snack with some hummus, or cooked with some farro or quinoa to make a healthy stuffed pepper.

Most importantly, be a role model.

Children are blank slates who love nothing more than to be a part of our lives. Listen to them and encourage curiosity. Most importantly, practice the habits that you are teaching to them so they can learn by example.

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Bryan Murray

Bryan Murray is a writer, vegan, and plant-based food enthusiast, based in New Jersey.

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