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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

August 9, 2023 - 4:19pm --

Balance, variety and moderation. Three words that can apply to so many parts of our lives but today I’m referring to our diets.

We just completed a series of classes in partnership with Wooster Community Hospital. 'Dining with Diabetes' covered many foods and the benefits of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables to gain many essential vitamins and minerals to nourish our bodies.

As adults, we typically have the ability to make daily selections of the food we purchase, prepare and enjoy.

If there are children in the home, they too, may make selections based on their preferences but may be limited by what foods are available to them on a regular basis.

If we think about food choices for our family from the point of view that we are laying the groundwork for their food choices for life, it encourages us to try a few new foods on the daily or weekly menus. We know that half of our plate should be fruits and vegetables with smaller portions of carbohydrates and proteins, including lower-fat dairy products help to build strong bones. If we are good models of eating, then hopefully our children will be encouraged to follow these habits as well.

Here are some points to ponder.

Give kids a say in what they’ll eat

Children need three meals a day to support their growing bodies and minds. Having a variety of fruits and vegetables is essential to gain the nutrients they need. When you go to the store, farm market or farmers market, let them explore the variety you see and if possible, let them taste to see what new foods you may add to your weekly menus.

As school is just around the corner, think about foods that are quick and easy to prepare for breakfast (if they don’t eat it at school). Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day for all of us. Making time to have food from at least three of the food groups is a great way to start the day.

If you or your child pack lunches, now is the time to explore simple recipes and packable foods. Having some carbohydrates, and proteins along with fruits and veggies help to give a variety of taste, color and textures. Switch things up so that it’s not the same thing all the time and let them help with the process so that they have some choice in what’s packed. This is also a life lesson so that as they grow, they can pack their own. Consider having a place in the cupboard and refrigerator designated for 'lunches' and one for 'snacks' so that choices can be made.

Letting children choose whether to eat at school or bring their lunch may be a stepping stone as they age. Being able to choose a fun lunch box or bento box might encourage their involvement in selecting foods and participating in packing for their meal or snack.

Sliced and ready for easy access

Have healthy snacks available after school or before activities begin. Preparing sliced fruits and vegetables and placing them for quick access makes them more likely to be eaten. Try a glass of milk, a smoothie, or cheese chunks, whole grain crackers or a sandwich. Having tasty dips for veggies can encourage that choice. Making trail mixes with bits of leftover cereal and dried fruits can be a welcomed addition to the snack shelf.

Limit foods away from home as much as possible. Research shows when we eat out, we don’t have the variety and nutritional choices we need, and we tend to eat foods higher in fat. It can be hard on a budget too when feeding a family, even at a fast-food restaurant.

Don’t forget that water is essential for all of us. It’s encouraging to see so many using water bottles and being diligent to reach daily goals for increased water intake. Reminding children to drink more water will help them feel their best.

Balance the calories and activities, have a great variety of many items in the food groups and moderation with the foods that may not give us the most nutrition. Steps to wellness start with a good foundation early in life and summer is a great time to find a wonderful selection of fruits and vegetables. Take your children or grandchildren and find what their favorites are!

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722 or
This article was previously published in The Daily Record.