Helping Kids Eat Healthy


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Check out our Meal Planning Guide for a step-by-step approach to planning meal frequency and composition.  No matter what your schedule, you’ll gain insight into how to eat to make the most of your efforts!  Also included are sample meal plans, food lists and weekly schedules. 

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This week I thought I would share with you all a little bit of information on helping your children eat healthier. I used to teach nutrition classes and counsel families who had children struggling with eating habits and obesity. Lately, I have been receiving questions asking if I had any advice geared towards family eating so I thought I would share some of that.

We used to do a lot of different booths/presentations for the parents, and this was one I had put together with just a few basic nutrition tips.

Eating Healthy with a Busy Lifestyle

Try to incorporate these tips:

  • Serve more whole foods and less processed food.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables with every meal.
  • Serve your children healthy lean protein at every meal.

One of the best ways to do this is to cook meals at home more often. Reach for the foods that don’t come with a long nutrition label, such as:  broccoli, spinach, apples, brown rice, whole grains, fresh fish, nuts, eggs, meats, yogurt or beans.

It all starts with what goes into your shopping cart.  Having a solid foundation allows for better choices when you’re short on time. Also, not having unhealthy options around the house makes for much easier choices.

All our bodily functions are contingent on receiving the necessary nutrients. Some of the more important ones for kids are:

Fiber

Constipation is quiet a big issue for many kids. You wouldn’t guess that, but I can’t tell you the number of kids I see in clinic who battle with this. Frankly, it’s usually because their diets lack fiber!

Fiber fills you up, and is good for digestion, blood sugar levels, heart health, and weight management. You’ll find it in plant-based foods such as:

  • Vegetables (fresh, frozen, and canned)
  • Fruits (fresh, frozen, and canned)
  • Beans (dried, canned)
  • Edamame (fresh or frozen)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole-grain cereal (hot and cold)
  • 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain bread products
  • Whole-grain blend pastas
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Whole-wheat tortillas

Potassium

Many kids don’t get enough potassium, which they need for their nervous system, muscle function, and water balance. It’s not a nutrient you might think of right away, but it’s one that’s pretty important!

Good sources of potassium include:

  • Artichokes
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupes
  • Leafy green vegetables (such as beet greens, Swiss chard, broccoli)
  • Orange juice
  • Prunes and prune juice
  • Papayas
  • Potatoes with skin
  • Tomatoes
  • Beans and peas, including lima beans
  • Fish, shellfish, and clams
  • Low-fat and fat-free dairy
  • Nuts (including almonds, brazil nuts, peanuts, soy nuts, and pistachios)

Protein

Include lean protein in almost every meal your kids eat.

Good sources include:

  • Eggs
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Fish
  • Lean meat
  • Skinless poultry
  • Low-fat milk
  • Yogurt
  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains

Be Choosy About Fats

Your child needs some fat in their diet, just not too much, or the wrong kind. Some types of fat are better choices than others.

Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, help brain development in babies and young children. Compared to saturated fats, monounsaturated fats may help your body stay more sensitive to insulin, making diabetes less likely.

These foods are excellent sources of omega-3s or monounsaturated fat:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, anchovies
  • Eggs with omega-3
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Ground flaxseed

Read Food Labels

Cooking is great but for most families, it’s not realistic to cook everything, at every meal, from scratch.

When you buy processed foods, check the Nutrition Facts label and choose items that are lower in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.

A food is considered “low” if a single serving provides 5% or less of the daily limit for sugar, saturated fat, or sodium.

Foods are considered “high” if a serving provides 20% or more of each nutrient.

Although it’s not always easy for anyone to eat healthy (even harder for children) there are ways to make it a little easier. You’re not going to change every habit overnight, nor should you try; although, if you are willing to work and make healthy eating a priority, it is possible to make a positive impact on your child’s diet and overall health.