Make "Fall Cleaning" the Pantry Part of Your Back to School Routine

Whether yours is a single-parent family or both parents work, chances are good that your older kids will spend some time alone after school during this school year. Even kids with stay-at-home parents aren't supervised 100% of the time. What your kids eat when you're not looking might surprise you. You've heard of spring cleaning, but have you ever considered fall cleaning? I'm talking about cleaning out your pantry, getting rid of unhealthy snacks.

Your kids won't have to fight the temptation when they're home alone if you fight temptation at the grocery store. Make it easy on your kids to eat healthy by only providing healthy options at home. They can have sweets and salty snacks on occasion, but only on occasion. If you keep these foods in your pantry, your kids are likely to eat them as often as they can get away with it.

Not only that, they're likely to combine these unhealthy snacks in new, creative, and humorously disgusting ways. Remember when you were a kid? What horrible food combinations did you come up with? Some of the combinations I've heard over the years include sugary cereal with chocolate malted milk balls and marshmallows, peanut butter and chocolate chips on white bread, marshmallows melted in the microwave.

Get rid of potato chips

Replace them with whole wheat crackers with low fat cheese. Read the labels of the crackers at the store. Buy two or three that seem relatively healthy. Let your kids decide which to keep in the pantry. This way, you get their buy-in.

Get rid of toaster pastries with fruit filling

Replace them with multigrain bread with raspberry jam. You get extra points for choosing sugar-free jam!

Get rid of pizza rolls

Replace them with English muffins, pizza sauce, and low fat mozzarella. Try to find a pizza sauce made with fresh ingredients, no preservatives. Your kids can spread the sauce on half of a muffin, sprinkle with a tablespoon of cheese, and then microwave for 30 seconds or so. This doesn't take any longer than microwaving the frozen pizza rolls would, but is guaranteed to be much lower in fat.

Get rid of fruit-flavored snacks

Replace them with fruit. A good rule of thumb is: The less processed a food is, the better it is. Snacks don't get any healthier than fruit.Your kids are likely to gravitate toward food that's easy to grab and go. If you make fall cleaning your pantry part of your back to school routine, you can ensure that they make healthy choices because only healthy foods will be available to them.

Your kids are likely to gravitate toward food that's easy to grab and go. If you make fall cleaning your pantry part of your back to school routine, you can ensure that they make healthy choices because only healthy foods will be available to them.

    Editor's Note: Pediatrician Dr. Marta Katalenas is on a crusade against childhood obesity. Children are not responsible for buying or preparing their own food, and Dr. Katalenas believes the cooperation of the entire family is essential in the fight against childhood obesity. She is available for public speaking engagements and is located in the Austin, Texas area, and works at the Pediatric Center of Round Rock.

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