Thank you to Jennifer Willoughby, pediatric dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Children’s for her guest post.
As you probably know, Earth Day is next week (April 22), and it’s the perfect time to not only celebrate our planet, but to also think about how we can do our part to help save water and energy, reduce pollution and protect our animals, trees and plants. As parents, it is our duty to encourage our kids to show interest in protecting the environment. This year, celebrate with your family by following these eco-friendly (and kid-friendly) tips that benefit your health and the environment!
Here are 5 ways to celebrate Earth Day with your kids, while also improving their health, according to Jennifer Willoughby, pediatric dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Children’s
- Go green…with school lunches.
Ditch brown and plastic bags. Instead, opt for lunch boxes and alternatives to plastic bags such as disposable unbleached-paper bags or reusable BPA-free plastic containers. And consider filling those containers with some vibrant green vegetables. Also, skip juice boxes and bottled drinks and replace them with reusable water bottles. Don’t forget the eco-friendly napkins!
- Skip the meat and load up on veggies.
A study published by The Journal of Pediatrics – and led by Cleveland Clinic Children’s pediatrician Dr. Michael Macknin – discovered that children who eat a plant-based vegan diet can lose weight (if medically necessary), lower their blood pressure and improve their cholesterol in just four weeks. In addition, eating a vegetarian diet protects our soil, conserves water, saves energy and clears the air! Going meat-free once per week can benefit the body and the environment. This Earth Day, plan to cook a delicious, vegetarian meal for your family and don’t forget to involve the kids.Allow them to pick out their favorite veggies at the supermarket or farmer’s market and ask them to help you prepare the meal.
- Cook with local produce.
Local produce doesn’t need to be shipped long distance, which promotes energy conservation by reducing usage of fossil fuels and packaging. Even if you don’t have a backyard vegetable garden, you can still cook with locally grown produce. Not only will cooking with local produce help the environment, but it will also result in healthy meals for the family.
- Leave the car behind and get the kids moving.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, highway vehicles release about 1.5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year. Take a family bike ride — or walk! — to one of the day’s destinations, and ask your children if they can think of any other environmentally-friendly modes of transportation. This can be both a fun and active way to spend time with the family and it will also get your children moving. Earth Day is a great time to take the kids outside and allow them to embrace the world around them through exercise. Look for the kind of exercise where your kids are outside, running around, riding a bike, walking to school or playing a sport.
- Breathe in the fresh air.
According to the EPA, air pollutants in the home can be 2-5 times higher than outdoor air pollutants. Open your windows and let the fresh spring air in! Fresh air will improve your health, boost your mood and allow your family to appreciate the scents and sounds of nature.
Going “green” may sound like a stretch for some people, but it is worth the effort! Getting your children moving and incorporating plant-based meals into your weekly dinner rotation, even for one day a week, can significantly help improve the environment and the health of your family. Earth Day is the perfect time to give it a try!