By Stacey Antine
Family meals are an important tool to emphasize healthy eating and social habits, but the sky is the limit when you connect good nutrition to exploring the great outdoors on family time! Warm weather means it’s time to shut off the TV, to stop texting and get connected with trees, birds, worms and so much more right in our own state, town or backyard. Here’s how to get started on your exciting outdoor adventure with family and friends:
• Mark the Calendar. Schedule play dates with nature at parks, farms, farmers’ markets events and botanical gardens by getting them on the calendar when everyone (pets, too!) is available and then, start the research!
• Start a Garden. From my personal experience of working with thousands of kids of all ages, they love to grow, harvest and cook with their hand-grown food. There is nothing more rewarding for a child (or grown-up kid) to plant carrot seeds, watch their tops grow and then, dig for orange gold when these delicious carrots loaded with beta-carotene are ready to be harvested. Remember you won’t see dancing chicken nuggets in the garden or cans of soda being dumped on the plants because it would hurt the plants. Once kids make the nature-nutrition connection and apply it to their own bodies, their light bulbs go off and you will see their food choices move in a healthier direction.
• Jump into Composting. Composting and gardening go hand-in-hand. It’s an exciting way for the family to eat more fruits and veggies to help build up the pile, reduce landfill garbage, get some exercise and hang out with worms!
• Variety Cures Boredom. Each weekend can bring a new adventure by visiting the local zoo, hike a new path, bike ride as a family and pack a fun, nutritious picnic at the local park. Splurge by camping overnight (I can promise you that you will not find any vending machines at these locations!).
• Go Veggie Picking. Visit a local farm that offers the public the opportunity to pick your own produce and enjoy the experience knowing where your food comes from.
• Bring the Binoculars. Sitting still is a new concept for many of us in our 24/7 lifestyles, but if you just rest and take in the sites, you will be amazed to watch nature at work!
• Keep a Journal. Kids love to create journals of their experiences including what foods they picked and tried, what bugs they found, and any other family adventure. Everyone can participate in drawing, writing or adding stickers of what was observed. Don’t forget the camera!
Get planning and enjoy the great outdoors with your family and remember that good nutrition is an experience that can be achieved beyond the plate at the family meal.
– Stacey Antine, MS, RD, founder, HealthBarn USA, author, Appetite for Life and recognized as top 10 dietitians nationally by Today’s Dietitian magazine for her work with HealthBarn USA.