Most of us know that getting fruits and veggies into our diets is important, but on many days that's easier said than done. Thankfully, local families get a helping hand from the non-profit organization EATS Park City, which works to ensure every student in Park City School District (PCSD) has opportunities to develop lifelong healthy habits and access to fresh, nutritious, appealing food. With school almost out for the summer, Janae Ridge, Executive Director of EATS and Shannon Doleac, EATS Board Member and local nutritionist, share some advice for parents looking to maintain healthy diets for the entire family during the impending break (and the rest of the year).
What type of activities/programs does EATS run in Park City schools to help children make healthy food choices?
Jenae Ridge: Our advocacy work and partnership with the PCSD aims to bring nutritious food and quality nutrition education to ALL students. EATS teaches cooking classes to students in the after school programs at all four elementary, as well as the middle and junior high schools. In the classes we teach students skills they can take back to their families and practice at home. Outside of the schools, we are also beginning to offer family classes where each member can learn an age appropriate skill in addition to school break camps where the students can really explore the culinary arts.
What are your suggestions for families looking to maintain a healthy diet for the kids when they aren’t in the school programs?
Shannon Doleac: Cook together as a family, or parent/child whenever possible. This is a great time to connect, show that healthy food can be fun, and learn together. If being in the kitchen is intimidating, keep meals and recipes simple and add fresh produce. Add color to your plate. Make it challenge: Can you and your children eat something naturally green at each meal? How many naturally colorful foods can you eat in a day? Challenge the family to try a new vegetable each week, choose a variety of protein sources and season with different herbs (fresh or dried) and spices. Don't forget to involve children in meal planning and fresh food selection at the store, farmers market or in your own backyard garden. Write down a “food swap chart” WITH your kids: pick 5 processed/sugary snacks that might be a part of their week and come with 5 healthier snack alternatives TOGETHER.
What resources around Park City can people put to use to have access to fresh, healthy foods?
Jenae Ridge: Support a local farmer, purchase a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)! Many of them will even deliver for those of us who find it challenging to get to the farmers market and by paying upfront you help them to secure income for their families. You can also get a plot at Summit Community Gardens, they offer support and classes for those new to the hobby. Liz Blike, a local dietician and EATS Advisor, also suggests using websites like PrePear and PlantoEat.com to help build menus and grocery lists, checking out new businesses like Citrus Pear in Heber where you can go get meals made for the week, and having healthy snack lists when shopping.
How can families make eating healthy a yearly activity even when they’re busy?
Shannon Doleac: Cook at home whenever possible. This doesn’t have to be time consuming and complicated; keep it simple. Raw, steamed, roasted or sautéed vegetables, along with grilled, baked, or stir-fried meats (or alternatives), and cooked or drizzled with natural fats (olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter, etc.) can be the base for a healthy meal. Take a few hours on a less busy week or weekend day to prep ahead! Wash, chop, and store vegetables and fruits. Grill, bake or broil batches of chicken, fish, beef, etc. Make and freeze soups, stews or chilis. Prioritize preparing and cooking meals together in a way that best works for your family’s schedule. We have many convenient food options available today, but bringing the family back to the kitchen and table together will lead to better health by teaching the value in nutritious food and competence in the kitchen.
Do you have any favorite go-to healthy snack or meal recipes you could share?
Jenae Ridge: I love roasted veggies! The PCSD Child Nutrition Services staff made a Roasted Cauliflower with an Easy Yogurt Dip (find the recipe here) for the students during an Adventure Bites session, a program designed to test foods to later add to the school menu, and it was a huge hit!
EATS Park City will host its annual Fork In The Road fundraiser on Saturday, April 21 at the Legacy Lodge. The event supports EATS programming year round and features food, music, drinks, and a silent auction. You purchase tickets and find out more about the event here.