September 18, 2023

Gratitude and Mindful Eating

Dancing Moose Montessori School

Breanne Nalder Harward, MS,RDN

 As we all know, this time of year can be crazy! Schedules change, kids are adapting to new environments, extracurricular activities are in full swing, etc., and let’s not forget parents. We’re working and keeping the house afloat in the middle of it all. Often the thing that becomes the hardest to maintain is… dinner, right?! Mealtime is a great time to cultivate gratitude. Sitting down as a family to eat dinner is the perfect time to express appreciation for relationships, time spent together, and nourishing food. We can remind our kids that many different people have played a role in the food they are about to eat. Mindful eating is also a great way to practice gratitude as a family as we slow down the pace of our busy day, pay attention to how our bodies are responding to our meal, and appreciate the process of fueling ourselves with nutritious food. Nutrition is my job, and I still struggle to put a balanced meal on the table more nights of the week than I’d like to admit. So, let’s talk about a few ways to keep things healthy without adding more stress to our lives. Here are a few tips and tricks:

  • Overdo it! When you do take the time to prepare a meal, make double or triple the amount you need and save the rest in the freezer for later. This could be easily done with a soup or any baked dish. The recipe provided below is a great example. It also happens to be one of the new meals on the fall menu so your kiddos should already know and love the butternut squash risotto and be excited to have it with you too.
  • Sneak in the veggies! It’s common for kids to not want the side of vegetables on their plate. Rather than give in and not serve them, try throwing spinach directly into the spaghetti noodles or even making noodles out of veggies such as squash, carrot or even beets. You may be surprised at how much more excited your kiddo will be about the colorful noodles and gobble them right up. A couple other ideas are to make pizza together and choose 3 veggies to put on top or have a vegetable bread for dessert. Who doesn’t like pumpkin or zucchini bread in the fall? Yum!
  • Provide options! If you have picky eaters or some that like different things at different times (we all do!) make your components individually and let each family member build their own plate. It’s less work for you and more fun for them. It’s human nature to like what we choose for ourselves, so when kids have control of their own plate, they are more likely to put the healthy foods on their plate than when a cartaker puts it in front of them and say they have to eat it. Let them be a part of their own creation, with a bit of encouraging supervision of course 😉

Maybe I should introduce myself too. Hi, I’m Breanne Nalder Harward, MS,RDN, and I’ve had the privilege of helping with the meal and snack plans at Dancing Moose. Those letters by my name simply mean that I have a Masters degree in Nutrition and work as a Registered Dietitian. My 3 year old daughter attends Dancing Moose too. so I have extra incentive to create a menu for our children that is balanced, healthy, and appropriate. There are a lot of factors to take into account when putting a meal plan together for hundreds of kids such as allergies, budget, nutrient quality and of course… taste! I also try to incorporate seasonal ingredients and foods from our school’s gardens to make the menu appeal to all. You may notice that Mondays and Thursdays there are not separate meals for vegetarians, rather all kids have the same foods. This is intentional as it is important to incorporate plant based proteins into our everyday diets. One example is the sunflower butter you’ll see on meals and snacks. As a nut free facility, this is a way our children can get the nutrient profile of nut butters with healthy fat and protein, and most don’t even know the difference! Those are a few examples of foods you see on the menu and why. I’m always open to suggestions and ideas so feel free to tell your school’s director and they can pass it along to me for the next round of menu planning.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Makes 4 Servings (1 cup each)

• 2/3 cup dry Arborio Style rice
• 1 T olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1/2 cup chopped onions
• 4 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
• 1 cup chopped butternut squash

• Add olive oil, garlic, and onions to pan and sauté at medium heat until transparent • Add butternut squash and rice and turn quickly to cover with oil
• Cover rice with broth and keep stirring, adding more broth as the mixture thickens • Cook at medium heat for 20 minutes or until the rice is soft but retains a slight al- dente texture
• At the end, add salt and black pepper to taste
• Serve with a side salad and enjoy!

Cook risotto seasonally, using a variety of vegetables in season. The less time the vegetables require to cook, the later you should add them to the risotto. Use asparagus, kale, tomatoes, any veggie that sounds good. For more protein, stir in some pre-cooked chicken, tofu, edamame, fish, or some slivered almonds!

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Dancing Moose Montessori School

September 18, 2023


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