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Healthy snacking and outdoor adventuring

By Laura Allen

During this time of quarantine, it’s so important to help our children stay healthy. Snacking and sitting on the couch may become popular pastimes for some, but that is not the type of behavior that we want to become common. Here are some tips to help promote healthy living while at home:

Get active outdoors: It has been beautiful outside lately, so go out and enjoy it with your family. Tell your children that you are going to go on an outdoor “adventure” and make it sound enticing and exciting! During this adventure, walk or run around your property or neighborhood looking for items in nature, similar to a nature scavenger hunt (don’t forget about social distancing). Look for pine cones, spider webs, blooms, birds, bugs, rocks and more.

Exercise: Yes, the “adventure” listed above is exercise, but also think of other ways to get active. Lots of gyms and yoga studios are offering free online videos and classes to help keep people active. You can do these as a family or find videos specific to children. Also, go outside and throw a frisbee, kick a soccer ball, or ride a bike. If you have a larger family, encourage classic games like freeze tag or hide and seek.

Provide fun, healthy snacks: There are lots of ways to make snacks healthy and fun! Here’s two examples:

Fruit and Veggie Animals: Let your children use fruits, vegetables and toothpicks you have at home to make fruit & veggie animals. You can help them chop the fruits and vegetables or leave them whole. Children will simply use the toothpicks to attach fruits & veggies together to look like an animal. This will allow them to get creative and have fun with healthy snacks. Once they finish, they can eat their snack (don’t forget to remove the toothpicks when eating).

Butterfly Snack: Put grapes, blueberries, cherry tomatoes or another healthy snack in a sandwich sized storage bag. Separate the snack to each side of the bag, leaving a small empty space in the middle. Attach a clothespin in the middle of the bag, so the snack is on each side of the clothespin.

The child can color the clothespin and decorate it with antennas and eyes to create the final product.

Fruits and vegetables at mealtime: We are eating at home a lot right now, so it’s easy to cook a frozen pizza or another food item that requires less thinking and less time. But, don’t neglect fruits and vegetables. Make a point to add fruits and vegetables to your child’s plate at every meal (and your plate, too). If your child is not a fan of certain fruits or vegetables, get creative about how you can “sneak” them in without your child knowing. Also, try offering low-fat dips or dressings or hummus to go with the vegetables, which may encourage children to eat them better. For more information on healthy eating, visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov/.

Unplug: Technology definitely has its place in society and is vital right now as we navigate our new normal with online school, Zoom work meetings and virtual family gatherings. However, it’s important that families also take time to unplug–both children and adults alike. Turn off the television, put the cell phone away, and enjoy the precious time you have with your family.

Be thankful: Despite the current circumstances, there is always something to be thankful for. Go around the dinner table and have each person in your family tell what they are thankful for; you could do this daily or once a week. Positivity and thankfulness is uplifting to all.

I hope these tips will be helpful to you and your family as you seek to stay safe and healthy.

Laura Allen is the 4-H Agent in Rowan County. 4-H is the youth development component of Cooperative Extension. For more information on youth programs and activities, please follow Rowan County 4-H Program on Facebook, visit rowan.ces.ncsu.edu, or email Laura at laura_allen@ncsu.edu.

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