Teaching our children to have healthy nutrition habits starts when they are young. More importantly it begins with us, their parents. We can teach our children to eat correctly by offering them healthy options regardless of our own food preferences.
Joan Lunden and Pediatrician Myron Winick co-authored the book “Growing Up Healthy: A Complete Guide to Childhood Nutrition, Birth Through Adolescence.” They discuss the importance of proper nutrition as early as in the womb. Healthy food choices are crucial during the first years of life as cells form and grow so rapidly. Moreover, Lunden and Winick maintain that an adolescent diet rich in fats and sugars is the pre-cursor to adulthood aliments such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. As parents we are entitled to teach our children to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats.
There are three steps to creating healthy meals. Getting some children to eat them can certainly be a challenge however, it is a most viable one.
1. Eat the colors of the rainbow. Fresh raw fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals your body needs to run. When our children fill up on high fat sugary treats and snacks they do not have room for the foods their bodies need to stay fueled and healthy. The body also feels sluggish and bloated. It is recommended that we should eat six servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Sounds like a lot, but when you think about it a serving looks like this:
1/2 cup of fruit
1 medium piece of fruit
1/4 cup of dried fruit
3/4 cup of 100% fruit or vegetable juice
1 cup of leafy vegetables
1/2 cup of cooked or raw vegetables
Substitute an apple for crackers. If they are still hungry at night fulfill their crunch attack by munching on some veggie sticks. It is easier to eat what is available and within reach. So keep the fridge and counter top stocked with fresh fruits and veggies.
2. Make Farmer’s Market meals. Create meals from an array of fresh produce and lean meats or legumes. Consider the paper plate model as a guide. Fold a paper plate in half. The bottom portion is for vegetables. Next divide the top portion of the plate in half. One corner is for protein (3 ounces constitutes a portion of protein) and the other corner is for starches such as rice, pasta, starchy vegetables or bread.
3. Limit baked goods and prepackaged foods. Prepackaged foods and take out are convenient especially after a long day of work and running around. However, for everyday nutrition they lack the required nutrients to stay fit and healthy. The flour and sugars commonly found in restaurant cuisine and boxed snacks is loaded with extra unnecessary calories and fat. When buying bread and crackers choose whole grain over the enriched white flour versions. To make sure you are getting the real deal be sure to read the label. Many whole wheat products claim to be such but a quick glance at the ingredients lists reveals otherwise. Try offering a serving of wholegrain cereal or muffins with a protein such as low-fat cheese or yogurt. The protein helps to fill hungry tummies longer. Avoid eating out of the box. It is to easy to consume 2-3 servings without ever knowing.
It is equally important to stress exercise, portions, eating out of stress, boredom or fatigue and the need to fill up on water before taking seconds. Learning to manage healthy eating habits now will put us and our kids on the right path for a healthy vibrant life.