Jenn DeHaan | Fort Knox News
FORT KNOX, Ky. – Making sure everyone in the family is eating healthy can sometimes be overwhelming and oftentimes, families aren’t sure where to start.
In addition to being the chief of Nutrition Care Services, Laura Bottoms is also a mother to a 7-year-old. She said even with the hustle and bustle of everyday life and having young kids at home, eating healthy doesn’t have to be daunting.
“My motto when it comes to cooking is ‘half-homemade,’” said Bottoms. “If I can take something that’s a little bit on the convenient side and doctor it up to add more nutritional value to it, that is a win in my book.”
Bottoms said one way she sets her meal planning up for success has to do with how often she goes to the store.
“I personally find it helpful to grocery shop at least once a week,” said Bottoms. “I’ve seen a correlation between how frequently people go to the grocery store and their ability to manage and prepare meals during the business of life.”
In most cases, Bottoms said grocery stores are laid out in a way that promotes healthy eating, with the most nutritious food groups just inside the door. She said there’s also more than one way to focus on these groups.
“The base of things we keep in the house are lots of fruits and vegetables, generally a mixture of fresh and frozen with vegetables,” said Bottoms. “The reason for that is they’re convenient, they’re cut, they’re washed, and they’re ready to go. It’s a quick easy way to make sure you have a vegetable with dinner.”
However, Bottoms pointed out, oftentimes frozen vegetables unfairly get a bad reputation.
“The misconception is they’re less healthy than fresh,” said Bottoms. “However, in actuality, they’re picked at the peak of their nutritional quality and then quickly frozen. That kind of slows down the release of the nutrients.
“Depending on the time of the year, they could potentially be more healthful than your fresh are.”
Bottoms explained she takes a similar approach with vegetables’ sweeter counterparts, especially with her son in mind.
“With fruits, we keep a mix of fresh and canned – things like the pouches, the little mandarin oranges, or peaches that are packed in water or their natural juices, because they’re easy and things kids can grab on their own.”
Like the contents of her fridge, Bottoms said her pantry is also stocked with simple staples that provide wholesome additions to a balanced diet.
“In the pantry, we generally have whole grains, chickpea pasta, whole wheat pasta, a wide variety of different rices and other grains like farro,” said Bottoms. “We also have some quick, convenient things like canned beans, canned tomatoes, or sauce for a quick spaghetti night.
“I do try to buy the low-sodium or no-salt added varieties.”
Bottoms said the main thing to keep in mind when planning family meals that include young children is to not assign any food the label of ‘junk food’ or ‘treat.’ She said it’s best to eliminate the stigma so children can learn how to make responsible choices.
“Feeding between parents and children is a relationship,” said Bottoms. “We have to nurture that relationship. Parents are responsible for the what, the when and the where of feeding.” She explained by thinking of it in this way, children then learn to decide the if and how much, helping them develop healthy eating habits.
According to Bottoms, the best way to assure healthy meals are on the table each night is by going into preparation with intent.
“It starts before you even get the food in the house,” said Bottoms. “Be strategic about it. Make a plan.”