09/07/2016 10:49 EDT | Updated 09/07/2016 10:49 EDT

Theresa Nicassio Shares Tips To Help Kids Eat Healthier Food

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Mother and daughter preparing a meal in kitchen

Fall season means back to school and back to work or in other words, back to reality! It's buh bye to Bermuda shorts and barbecued burgers and hello to boots and brown bag lunches.

In a Q&A email interview with Dr. Theresa Nicassio, PhD Author of YUM: Plant-Based Recipes for a Gluten-Free Diet, she shares some back-to-school healthy eating choices while offering healthy eating tips for runners/athletes.

Q: What are some healthy eating tips you would give to active people to follow from your book?

A: Indulge in what you love: variety may be the spice of life but in general, eating is an extremely habit-driven behaviour, so use that to your benefit! If you find a healthy recipe that you love, make it a part of your regular routine and stick with it.

Eat your water: staying hydrated, especially when living an active lifestyle is extremely important. Many folks find it challenging to drink enough water to avoid risk of dehydration, which has a direct effect on vitality and performance. The more active you are the more hydration your body requires.

One of the greatest benefits of enjoying a plant-based diet that incorporates a large percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is that they have such a high water density and reduce your risk of dehydration.

Q: Your award-winning book, YUM offers great ways to become healthier -- is it a good resource book?

A: Change is difficult. Be patient with yourself. If you want to make lifestyle changes, your best chance at succeeding is by meeting yourself where you are at, not by trying to muscle yourself to where you want to be.

Dr. Nicassio shares three tips to help kids eat healthier food - without even knowing it!

With the majority of food choices at standard grocery stores being filled with artificial colours, flavours, sugar, MSG and other unhealthy fillers, the world of food that our kids are growing up believing is good for them is really skewed.

Even worse, many of the substances that are used in the most popular foods are now being found to have a similar effect on the brain as some of the most highly addictive street drugs. Between that physiological reality of the food products themselves and the overwhelming peer influence to consume these products, it's no wonder our kids are finding themselves over-indulging in a lot of unhealthy food. The rise in childhood obesity and diabetes in North America is a testament to this sad reality.

The great news is that there are three simple ways to empower kids to eat healthier food -- that are not shame-focused or difficult -- and are also really fun to do.

1. GARDEN WITH YOUR KIDS: When kids are involved in the planting and nurturing of food on the family's home patio or in the garden, they are more inclined to eat (and appreciate) the beautiful food that springs from the earth. In addition to the obvious health benefits this offers, the benefits of increased awareness of food sourcing, life-skill enhancement and environmental awareness are also great rewards. Winter gardening is an especially fun activity to do with kids since after seed planting in the fall, the winter weather usually leads to forgetting about the garden, making the spring sprouts and harvests even more exciting to discover.

2. COOK WITH YOUR KIDS: As with gardening, kids are more likely to want to eat food that they prepare themselves than food that is made for them. They are more invested in the process and also curious about what they have been able to create. Empowering and confidence-building, the benefits of teaching kids about the magic of creating meals from real whole foods is good for their mind, spirit and body as well.

3. MAKE IRRESISTIBLE DESSERTS: There are much healthier options than the junk food that they otherwise typically would want to eat because of the societal belief that in order for food to taste delicious, it must be unhealthy (e.g. filled with sugar, gluten, butter, etc.). So, when you give your kids crazy-delicious desserts that don't have any of those ingredients in them, you can only imagine their surprise and delight to relish in delectable delights, especially if the recipes are easy enough for them to make themselves!

Nicassio is also a registered psychologist, raw food chef and nutrition educator.

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