A student finds the WKids Healthy Food for Life Program quite appetizing.
Students participate in the WKids Healthy Food for Life program. Courtesy of the Wellness Foundation
In a fleeting moment, tomato season on the East End has passed. This favorited summer produce will soon be swapped out with autumn’s bounty of apples, Delicata squash, pumpkins, Brussels sprouts and other hearty yields. Healthy, simple recipes at home and at restaurants result in satisfying dishes, an edible representation of what the local harvest means. If embracing a wellness lifestyle, the good news is all produce falls under the guidelines for the Wellness Foundation’s program. Fall food is officially on the menu.
Summer tends to be a bit less structured in terms of sticking to any type of health program. Schedules are made flexible to allow for more time at the beach and regular meals may be off balance with picnics, barbecues, events, and houseguests in rotation. Wellness Foundation Vice President and Executive Director of Education and Programs Jennifer Taylor says when it comes to beginning or re-starting a wellness program, September is the new January.
When school starts and the days are shorter, people are ready to improve their health. “Fall means school is in session and that means we are kicking off our 10th year of our WKids Healthy Food for Life program,” Taylor says of the program that the organization says has empowered more than 20,000 children and families to date. “Last year, we were in 12 schools in eight school districts and this year, we are expanding to the North Fork through a grant from Slow Foods Master Farmer. We will be presenting the program in pre-k through high school.”
With routines back on track, packing a child’s lunch gives parents more control over what they are eating again. Simple changes for more nutrient-rich lunch include opting for whole grain bread over white, using nut butters and fruit-only jams on sandwiches, veggies with hummus or a healthy dip instead of chips and fruit slices or homemade fruit salad.
Teaching kids how to put their own healthy meals together can be made into a fun activity, says Taylor. Building their own burritos with wholesome ingredients like black beans, rice, salsa and avocado with dairy-free cheese and whole grain tortillas is WKids recipe favorite. For smoothie lovers, parents can make them the night before and freeze them. By lunchtime, they’re the perfect consistency.
“Fall is a great time to make hearty soups and stews, and I am a big fan of making a batch of soup and then freezing it in single serving containers so I always have something quick for lunch,” Taylor shares. “Another favorite tip the moms on our team use is to make a little extra when you cook dinner and pack it for your child's lunch the next day. Warm it in the morning and put it in a thermos. Individual pita pizzas can be made ahead and baked and put it a container or zipper bag with a little side salad for a healthy lunch.”
New this fall is the Wellness Foundation’s personalized wellness coaching program, which will be led by associate director of education and programs Zoë Kobrin. As a health coach she will work one-on-one with individual clients. The fall Wellness Challenge 360 program has also begun. This seven-week program has helped thousands of adults lose weight, lower their cholesterol, improve their heart health, improve their energy and their sleep, reduce chronic inflammation and reduce prescription drug usage.
For inspiration on how to incorporate fall produce into the Wellness Foundation’s guidelines, the organization offers a number of tips and tricks on their website. The guidebook and Jumpstart Guide have 100 additional recipes for the home chef to try, while local partner restaurants bear a W mark to signify program-approved dishes for those that enjoy dining out.
“Some of our fall favorites are apples,” Taylor shares. “Try our crockpot applesauce on our website. Cook some pumpkin for muffins or some pumpkin pie oatmeal. Brussels sprouts are great roasted or shaved into salads. Pick up a Delicata squash and try our Delicata squash bisque.”
Learn more about the Wellness Foundation’s fall programs at wfeh.org.
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