Back to the Food Routine – 4 Tips to Get Your Kids Eating Better During the School Year
Wow! What a summer. If you were anything like us, your family’s summer break was busy with camps, swimming, sports, work and travel. Our two boys had a very active and hot summer filled with days of playing with friends at a local summer camp and a sleep away camp (for the older brother), seeing and meeting new relatives in Canada, developing new friendships at a beautiful wedding in Oregon, and welcoming Gramma and Aunt Debby into our home for a brief visit. Needless to say, throughout the summer we were all off our regular routine compared to the school year, which included our normal eating habits. We scarfed down cinnamon Beaver Tails in Toronto, sampled Voo Doo donuts and fried foods from the streets of Portland, and inhaled rolls of sushi in Vancouver. Some of the food rules that we enforced for the kids during the school year were laxed a bit, because of fun activities, birthday parties, BBQ’s, and lots of travel. For example, we very rarely allow the boys to drink soda and we try to limit their intake of juices, however to their enjoyment, they consumed more than their fair share of Coca-Cola this summer. Sweets and treats are generally handed out conservatively, but summer months saw our kids indulging in an excess amount of sugary foods that had them bouncing off the walls at times. Even though I knew that the free for all bad food binges would end as September approached, I noticed that poor eating habits were starting to develop within the Crenshaw crew. Now that Labor Day has passed, and school is back in session, the challenge now is to get our family -more specifically our kids – back on the wagon to eating better. If you are facing a similar situation, here are my 4 tips that can help your crew get back on track.
Create a List of Good Food Options – Have you ever arrived at the grocery store and forgot what you needed to buy? Then you stroll through each aisle perusing the shelves hoping to have your memory jogged by the site of an item. Milk, eggs, and bread are easy items to remember, because we typically eat them every day, but other essential food items needed to complete a meal can sometimes slip our minds. The best way to ensure that you’re setting your family up to eat better is to make a grocery list of good foods that includes, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. It sounds simple and easy, but how often do we actually do it because of our busy lives.
Things to consider when generating your list; avoid sugary cereals, donuts and sweet muffins for breakfast. Instead try oatmeal, whole wheat toast or English muffins. For a heartier breakfast my go to dish is a breakfast burrito filled with scrambled eggs and turkey sausage wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. It’s easy and quick, and the boys love it. Fruits such as bananas and strawberries can also be wrapped within a warm tortilla and sprinkled with cinnamon as a tasty alternative. Lunch box options can include a whole wheat tortilla turkey and cheese wrap, or almond butter and honey on whole wheat bread. Fruits and vegetables such as grapes, carrots or cucumbers are easy to include as well. Finding healthy snacks may be even more of challenge, but some of the Z Bars are great options along with string cheese, nuts (for those without allergies), hummus/pita bread, and fruit.
Allow the Kids to Help Create the Menu – Sometimes we ask the boys to come up with our dinner menu on certain days of the week. They like to create themes like Taco Tuesday or Chicken Wings Wednesday. Often, we’re surprised by their creativity and it really helps us to change things up a bit instead of eating the same dishes every week. Although you ultimately control what the family eats, kids can feel empowered when they’re included in that decision, plus you can hold them accountable for eating everything on their plate.
Have a Fun Food Day – It’s not always possible nor is it fun to eat healthy all of the time. Like a lot of families, we designate Friday as our Pizza night. We look forward to winding down the week eating at our favorite and best kept secret pizza joint in Chicago (name and location to be revealed at a later date). Sunday brunch can also be a splurge for us, as I may make a batch of my delicious homemade waffles or pancakes lathered in butter and real Canadian syrup. While staying on course and selecting good food options is important, a splurge day will give everyone something to look forward to and can hep you maintain your routine.
Stay Consistent and Persistent – I know it’s easy to get to side tracked when you’re trying to eat better, but the more consistent and persistent you are the better your chances of developing good eating habits. Maintaining a healthy food routine really just comes down to a lifestyle change and making sure that you have the best possible foods in your pantry and refrigerator. When you’re out and about and the kids are starving, resist the temptation to stop at Wendy’s to buy a 4 for 4. Chances are they will be ready to devour anything at that moment, so that is your chance to grab them an apple, banana, or grapes at the local market and let them go to town. Trust me, your consistency will pay off down the road and soon the entire family will get into the habit of having a good food routine.
I hope these tips resonate and will help your family get on a good food routine that works for everyone. I hope you have a great school year and remember to Eat. Travel. Explore.
5 Reasons Why Kids Need More Experiences and Not More Things
It’s December 25th and under the Christmas tree are a plethora of gifts neatly wrapped for our small family of four. It’s rightly so that most of the gifts are designated for our two eager-eyed boys that are patiently awaiting to unwrap their presents to see what Santa brought them. But aside from Santa’s gifts, there are presents from mommy and daddy, Gramma & Papa Jerry, Gramps and Granny D, Paw Paw, Papa Irv, Aunty Nay Nay, and Auntie Deb. Wrapping paper flows around the house like snowflakes coming down from the sky, as one gift after another is opened. The amount of time that they spend pouring over one present lasts for about 30-seconds, before they move on to the next one. It’s really fun to watch them go through their routine and the witness their level of excitement. We know that they’re appreciative of their new toys, gadgets and games, but after a week or two of playing with their new things, the newness wears off.
We’ve been fortunate to have traveled to a lot cool places with the boys; to countries like Costa Rica, and Mexico, and cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Miami, Los Angeles, and Seattle. It’s pretty evident that spending time in those places leaves lasting memories for all us, and the boys often reminisce about specific moments that were special to them. From sleeping outside in a tent on an island in Vancouver to spotting large crocodiles on a river tour in Costa Rica, they’ve had some amazing experiences. I do realize that a lot of folks may not be able to travel to different countries, however, you can still provide your kids with some amazing experiences that they will appreciate more than material things.
My wife Alayna and I started our dining club for kids, Little Diner’s Crew, as way to expand kids’ palates and take little ones on a tour around the world through food. We wanted to provide kids with a dining experience that they would remember and allow them not only to sample ethnic cuisine, but learn about different, customs, cultures and traditions. We felt that both kids and parents would enjoy our events, and we were right. It’s cool to see how excited kids are to taste new dishes and to interact with chefs. Often, their experience becomes a conversation piece with their family and sometimes friends.
Aside from food and travel, there are experiences for kids that involve the outdoors, museums, national parks, camps, and even technology. Free experiences can include hosting a family picnic or family reunion, starting a lemonade stand or family business, biking and exploring different neighborhoods, or baking and cooking together. Charitable activities are especially important, as kids are able to experience how to help others.
Here are my 5 reasons why kids need more experiences and less material things.
- Memories last longer than toys – Playing Fortnite for hours on the Xbox will eventually end and something else will take its place. As your kids get older, they won’t appreciate the hundreds of dollars you spent on gaming, but they will remember and appreciate the time you took them hiking, fishing or boating.
- They learn to accept and appreciate that people are different from them – It’s imperative for kids to learn about different cultures in today’s world. Being able to interact with individuals from different walks of life at an early age could be an invaluable experience that will broaden their perspective about people in general.
- Brings kids and parents closer together – Family time can easily be lost on technology, TV, work and school. We all get caught up in our day-to-day activities and miss out on quality time with our kids. Experiences can reconnect families and give everyone something to talk about. Planning an annual outing will give kids something to look forward to year after year.
- Stimulates creativity – If you engage your kids and ask them to help plan a family outing, you’re not only empowering them to be involved in decision-making, but also allowing them to use their creativity. You’ll be amazed what experiences kids will come up with when they’re given the greenlight to be creative.
- Things don’t bring kids happiness – We all know that a toy will make a kid happy for about two seconds, but a trip to Disney World will leave them smiling for months. Stop trying to bring temporary joy to your child by buying material things, because it will fade quickly. Watch their eyes light up when they reminisce about the dining experience they had on your family vacation.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should stop giving gifts to our kids, but sometimes a better offering may be an experience that they can remember and pass on to their kids.
Dads and Discipline
My 5 Rules for Getting Boys to Behave NOT So Badly
For anyone raising young boys, I’m sure that you can relate to the craziness that can arise at any given moment in your household. Punching, kicking, hitting, yelling, farting, crying, blaming, and shouting are just a few of the observable behaviors that I witness daily. It certainly can become taxing on any parent and lead to our own ugly behaviors in response to their actions. It’s only human that we as parents slip every now and then in disciplining our kids due to what’s going on in our own lives. And boys can be especially challenging, because well…they’re boys.
“The Spanish Square is thrilled to work with LDC and give kids the opportunity to have an authentic Spanish tapas dining experience.”
“Naoki Sushi is thrilled to be participating with Little Diner’s Crew! We are so excited to share Chef’s Naoki’s playful mix of contemporary and classic Japanese cuisine with all ages – old, young and…younger!”
“The philosophy at Inspired Catering & Events along with the Stefani family of restaurants has always been deeply rooted in traditional family culture.
We are excited to play a part in broadening children’s horizons through their palates. We look forward to joining LDC and assisting in helping them explore new and unfamiliar foods through our dining experiences. We love bringing families together and trust that these first steps will be the catalyst for a delicious new world!”
“A great way for kids to learn and taste different foods in a fun and engaging atmosphere. Highly recommend joining and exploring Chicago with Little Diner’s Crew.”
“It was an absolute pleasure to have the Little Diners Crew visit Presidio. Exposure to a variety of restaurants and types of cuisines was an important part of my childhood and I love encouraging the next generation to do the same.
The Little Diners were attentive and fully engaged in the experience. Our team at Presidio especially enjoyed sharing knowledge about our food and cooking processes with the team.
This is a great learning opportunity for children of all ages!”
“Imagine leaving an adult restaurant proud of your kids… My 5 year old loved it! She tried foods she shies away from with her parents. Dining with contemporaries is a joy at every age and we got to make new friends while the kids answered questions allowing them to open up and share and learn. This is an extremely professional crew. The whole family Loved when we got the passport and credentials to dine!”
“Awesome concept and the events are great for the kids (and the grown-ups too). My son and I love Little Diner’s Crew.”
“Bread & Wine is honored to particpate in Little Diner’s Crew because when you broaden a childs horizon or get them to try something different or that they thought they were afraid of through food and they end up liking it! – that can translate positively in all other aspects of their lives.”
“It was a really fun night. Kids loved dining out with friends. I have 1 adventurous eater and 1 picky eater so it was fun to see the difference. I think a group setting made trying new foods more exciting than just being with mom and dad. They also enjoyed how interactive the restaurant was and that they could give their feedback too! A great addition to let adults indulge also- why should kids have all the fun?! This is a wonderful event to join with friends or a great opportunity to meet new foodie friends!”
“My 6yo and I had a great time! I love the chance to try new restaurants and introduce my child to new cuisines and experiences!”
“Thank you so much for bringing your wonderful LDC experience to Portsmith! We truly enjoyed having all the kids and showcasing what Portsmith is all about. It is a genius concept, and proven so by the fact that my son, (who claims to be “vegetarian”) definitely tried everything (actually scarfed down that fried fish slider).”
“Perfect for the whole Family!! We really enjoyed our Little Diners Crew Adventure! Not only did my daughter enjoy her food and experience with new friends, she was willing to try new food she’s never had before. Also, my husband and I enjoyed great conversation with the other parents while the kids had their fun! We look forward to our next Little Diners Crew experience!!!”
“Very well done. Our 4 year old loved it. We will be back.”