Take a ‘This Instead of That’ Approach to Healthy Eating

What is good food? Our kids often eat FLOs, or “food-like objects,” according to Illinois Bone & Joint Institute Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator Arleen Temer-Wittcoff, who is part of the IBJI OrthoHealth® team. “Apple-flavored fruit chews or apple-flavored jelly beans are not foods,” she explains. “We are asking kids to choose real food, the apple, not a food-like object.” 

So what is the best advice for parents who are facing another school year trying to create healthy lunches, snacks, and meals for their kids? The answer is to think outside the box, or literally, the lunch box. Temer-Wittcoff suggests starting out by taking younger kids to the store to select the travel containers for their lunches. “Having containers of different sizes and shapes bodes well for packing a variety of foods and snacks.”

Utilize Leftovers

Consider packing leftovers into those containers from dinner the night before. Taking 10 minutes the night before to figure out tomorrow’s lunch takes less time than rushing in the morning. The added bonus is that you may have more opportunity for creativity and thought. 

Arleen Temer-Wittcoff

Arleen Temer-Wittcoff
Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator

Leftover choices might include whole wheat pasta with chicken, or beans and salads that can be rolled into a wrap. Hummus or guacamole can go well with carrots or cut cucumbers. 

Involve your kids in choosing their healthy lunch options from a fridge that is packed with nutrient-rich food selections. Whenever possible, bring children to the grocery store with you and let them select what they like from healthy options. Show them the labels of packaged foods and explain what exactly is in them. 

Choosing ‘This Instead of That’

For healthier school lunches, snacks and meals, there are a number of “this instead of that” choices you can help your child make. Over the course of time, these lifestyles can take root and they will learn to make good choices on their own. “We are training them to one day be adults who will eat for health and wellbeing as well as for enjoyment,” says Temer-Wittcoff.

Real Instead of Processed

Most parents know that drive-thrus and fast foods have limited space in a wholesome diet. The goal is not to be mistaken about much of the highly processed foods and snacks that make their way into our homes these days in the form of frozen foods and snacks that come in bags and boxes. Not sure if it’s wholesome or not? “Check the list of ingredients on the box or bag,” Temer-Wittcoff says. “Look at the number and length of ingredients. If you’re looking at the ingredients on a frozen pizza, the number can be absurd.”

Fiber Instead of Enriched

Instead of white bread and white rice, choose whole grain bread, brown rice or quinoa. “White bread is devoid of nutrients that are found in the original whole grain,” Temer-Wittcoff says. “Additionally it raises blood sugar rather quickly.” 

Foods like vegetables, whole grains and fruit are naturally high in fiber as well as vitamins and minerals,” she says. “In addition to having positive gastrointestinal effects, these foods combine well with quality protein, which makes for a balanced meal.” 

Speaking of Protein

"Consider roasted turkey or chicken, a veggie burger, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, a bean salad, nuts, and edamame for school lunches," Temer-Wittcoff says. "Keep the sugary treats for a special occasion, not an everyday lunch box thing."

Water Instead of Sugary Drinks

More than 14 teaspoons of sugar can be hidden in a single serving of a sugary beverage, Lynn Gettleman Chehab, MD, who is double board-certified in pediatrics and obesity medicine, says. She has spent years backing a “Rethink Your Drink” campaign in which she teaches educators to share with students how much sugar is in some of our teens’ and children’s favorite beverages, including popular coffee and tea drinks, chocolate milk, and juice boxes. “Usually, they’re shocked when they see how much sugar there is.”

Lynn Gettleman Chehab

Lynn Gettleman Chehab, MD
Pediatrician + Certified Weight Management Physician

“The first message we give for our ‘nutrition prescription’ at OrthoHealth is to avoid sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages,” adds Temer-Wittcoff. “That includes sweets and processed foods that turn into sugar.”

Grams-to-Teaspoons Sugar Calculator

Here’s a quick calculation to determine how many teaspoons are in a drink. Read the label to find the added grams of sugar. Then divide that number by four to translate sugar grams into teaspoons. “Thinking in terms of teaspoons is way more relevant than grams,” says Temer-Wittcoff.

How to Fill a Plate

Dr. Gettleman Chehab advises that half of your plate should be vegetables, one quarter should be protein, and one quarter fiber-containing carbohydrates. When choosing food options, read labels and consider how much sugar is in each serving. 

Eating healthy doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing anything. Once sugar is cut, as a matter of fact, patients of Dr. Gettleman Chehab state they feel better and function better. “They’re happier and healthier when they lower that sugar intake,” she says. “Small changes can make a big impact. Eating healthy foods can boost your immune system, improve mood, and provide more daily energy.”

Many of the adults and adolescents in the OrthoHealth program have implemented lifestyle changes, and often alleviate chronic health issues caused by inflammation. “Sometimes their headaches go away and their bloating goes away,” says Temer-Wittcoff. “Pain is also sometimes reduced. It’s uncanny how many issues can be resolved with clean eating and hydration.” 

Get the Support You Need

OrthoHealth is a unique program that offers metabolic and lifestyle support for both children and adults. Working with an entire team of specialized professionals - virtually or in person - can help you create and sustain lifestyle changes that can improve diet, stress management, and sleep while positively impacting overall health. Learn more about the OrthoHealth program.

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