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The (Healthy) Choice Is Yours

(by Julie Rusin)

Instead of trying to completely overhaul people’s eating habits, our team encourages the students we work with each month to make healthy choices. Changing everything at once can be quite a shock and is very difficult to maintain over time. Instead, it’s important to focus on the good choices you’re already making (more than you’d expect!) and try to have fun making small changes.

Below you’ll find some ideas to swap out common meals to add a healthy twist.

Grabbing a breakfast sandwich on the way to work or school could not be easier – but it could certainly be healthier! Try making your own at home the night before and popping it in the microwave the next day for a quick breakfast. Adding veggies like tomatoes and spinach is a great way to get in some servings of produce, and choosing whole grain bread or sandwich thins adds filling fiber to the meal.

Sometimes swapping out chicken nuggets for a chicken salad is just not going to cut it – and we reassure the students we work with that that’s okay! Here we use a pizza lunch as our example. If you are going to indulge in a slice, stick to one slice and make sure to fill up on fruits and vegetables after that. A great rule of thumb, promoted by MyPlate.gov, is to try to fill half of your plate with produce.

Takeout food is one of my absolute favorites; I find myself craving it all the time! When I discovered how quick and simple it is to make fried rice, a common takeout option, at home, the dish instantly became a staple in my house. Here’s my quick recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 chopped scallions (or ½ finely diced onion)
  • 2 cups chopped vegetables such as peas, carrots, asparagus, peppers, or anything else you have on hand (you can also use frozen vegetables)
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (or any grains you’d like, such as 1 cup rice and 1 cup quinoa)
  • 3 tablespoons tamari or low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • Optional: protein like chicken or shrimp, cooked

Directions:

  1. Heat ½ tablespoon of the oil over medium heat.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the eggs to the pan and scramble. Once they are cooked, remove the scrambled eggs from the pan and reserve for later.
  3. Add the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the scallions and fresh vegetables and sauté over medium heat 5-7 minutes until softened. (Mix in as many vegetables as you’d like; this is a great way to clean out the refrigerator!)
  4. Add any frozen vegetables you are using to the pan, and then add the rice, tamari, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. Stir well to combine; the heat from the pan will defrost any veggies.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the scrambled eggs and any additional cooked protein.
  6. Turn the heat to low and cook another 5 minutes until the entire dish is warmed through.

Prep time: 20 minutes, or 45 if you need to cook the rice

Serves: 2-3

Did you know that each corn kernel is the seed of the plant? Our students always love knowing they’re eating a bowl of exploded seeds when they’re munching on popcorn. Try switching up toppings by going savory with Italian seasonings like oregano, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and basil with a dash of olive oil or sweet with cinnamon and a pinch of sugar!

We encourage a healthy mindset and healthy habits for the children we teach. And while making sweeping changes can be daunting, trying little swaps is a great way to start making a change.

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