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2012 resolution: Be a child’s role model

Teaching children the value of good nutrition and health has been my passion for a number of years.

According to the many 2012 food trend surveys I have read, this may be the year that many more people jump on the bandwagon. In fact, out of the top 10 menu trends for the National Restaurant Association, three of them had to do with feeding children healthier meals.

Eating out has become much more mainstream than ever before due to busy schedules, convenience and lack of cooking experience. But why not make a simple meal at home with the kids?

As a parent, you are the most important influence on your child. You can do many things to help your child develop healthy eating habits for life and the younger your child is when you start, the more successful you may be.

Cooking together, eating together and talking together makes for a fun family meal at home.

Here are some tips on being a role model for children:

1. Show by example: Eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains as meals or snacks. If your child sees you doing it, he/she is more likely to as well.

2. Go grocery shopping together: One place to teach children about healthy food choices is in the supermarket. Use NuVal, the nutritional scoring system that rates all foods from 1 to 100. The higher the score, the healthier the food.

3. Get creative in the kitchen: Cut food into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters. Name a food your child likes to make after him/her like Jack’s Fruit Sundaes. This brings a whole new meaning to fun food.

4. Offer the same foods to everyone: No wonder it is easy to stop at the local drive-through when everyone wants something different. The point, however, of a family meal is to eat as a family, where everyone is eating the same thing at the same time around the same table.

5. Reward your child with attention, not food: Take note of whether you use food as a reward on a daily basis. If so, try your hardest to break the cycle so that your child doesn t grow up thinking food is a comfort that can fill you up emotionally.

Too many adults struggle with that already. To ensure that your child develops a healthy relationship with food, show your love with hugs and kisses instead.

If you are interested in having your child learn about healthier options at the grocery store, take a look at the upcoming Winter/Spring 2012 Austin Community Education brochure where you will find “Read It and Eat It, Savvy Kids at the Supermarket” and “Eat Bright” programs.

Spaghetti with veggie-packed Italian sauce

Serves 4

All you need

• 8 oz uncooked Hy-Vee spaghetti

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 1 small zucchini, thinly sliced

• 1 (8 oz) package sliced mushrooms

• 1/2 tbsp Grand Selections olive oil

• 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

• 1 (24 oz) jar Prego!” Heart Smart Italian sauce

All you do

1. Prepare spaghetti according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, saute garlic, zucchini and mushrooms in olive oil over medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and sautÈ 2-3 minutes. Stir in Italian sauce and simmer until hot. Let the kids help with slicing the zucchini and cherry tomatoes.

3. Serve sauce over hot, cooked spaghetti.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 350 calories, 5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, 66 g carbohydrates, 8 g fiber, 19 g sugar, 12 g protein.

Daily Values: 20% vitamin A, 30% vitamin C, 4% calcium, 20% iron.