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August is Kids Eat Right Month, a campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics with hopes of inspiring more parents, teachers and community leaders to take a serious look at the nutritional future of our children.

We all know that a focus on healthy eating should start at home. Parents and guardians are the first line of defense in the war on obesity. From the very first bites of baby food to the lunchboxes packed and sent off to school, they set the tone for what, when and how food will be eaten.

Parents are what internationally-recognized registered dietitian Ellyn Satter calls “the gatekeeper.” This means they ultimately get to decide what foods are brought into the home for consumption. If the pantry and refrigerator are stocked with junk food and sugary beverages, caregivers shouldn’t be surprised when those are the types of foods children choose to eat. When healthy snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt and string cheese are available, these are the foods that will be eaten and enjoyed.

Leading by example, and doing it for the right reasons, is also important. Show your kids the significance of healthy eating and regular physical activity because of the good it does for the body, rather than focusing on weight and appearance. Spend time together planning and cooking healthy meals, eating together as a family and getting active by taking a family walk or having a dance party.

Teachers and schools can promote a healthy lifestyle by encouraging nutritious snacks and making physical activity a part of each school day. They might invite a registered dietitian to come speak to children about new and fun ways to eat better and exercise more. Some schools have even planted gardens where students learn not only about the growing process, but also take part in harvesting and preparing the fresh produce to be used for school snacks and lunches.

Community leaders can encourage community programs such as communal gardens and weekly exercise groups. They should also work closely with local businesses and healthcare systems to host health fairs and events that promote physical activity like fun runs and bike races.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and when it comes to raising a healthy child, this couldn’t be more accurate. Together we can raise the next generation to be strong, healthy, happy individuals.

Fruit and veggie muffin bites

Ingredients

1 cup — zucchini

1 cup, quartered or chopped — apple

1 cup — oats, dry

1 medium — banana

2 large — egg

1 teaspoon — vanilla extract

¾ cup — milk

2 cup — flour, whole wheat

1 teaspoon — baking soda

2 teaspoon – cinnamon

½ teaspoon — salt

½ cup — sugar

¼ cup — butter, unsalted

1 — cooking spray

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roughly dice a zucchini and apple — you need one cup of each.

2. Blend one cup of rolled oats in a food processor or blender until flour-like. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.

3. In the same food processor (no need to wash), blend one cup of apple, one cup of zucchini and one medium (very ripe) banana. If there’s room, now add the eggs, vanilla, and milk and blend (any kind of milk will work). Leave the mixture aside for a moment.

4. Now add the following to the large bowl with the blended oats: whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir well.

5. Add the wet ingredients to the large bowl with the dry ingredients: blended fruit and veggie mixture, sugar (honey or maple syrup also work) and ¼ cup of melted butter or coconut oil. Mix well.

6. Spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray, then spoon the mixture in. Fill each muffin spot almost to the top.

7. Bake for 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the sides just begin to brown. Remove onto a cooling rack. Repeat until the batter is gone.

Taryn Palmer is a registered dietitian for the Magic Valley YMCA.

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