Nutrition Tips For Your Children

As if parenting didn’t come with enough pressures and responsibilities, making sure your child is eating well and maintaining a healthy weight is becoming more and more important.  According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, “childhood obesity has more than doubled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.” Combine that with the rise of eating disorders and “fear of being fat,” expressed by children as young as 10 years old, and it really gets complicated. So as a new parent, what can you do to help your children grow up to have a healthy balanced relationship with food that won’t cause them to be overweight but yet, is not too obsessive that it will turn in to a serious eating disorder? Here are some simple tips that will help you get started because, after all, healthy children make happy parents!

 

1) Be a positive role model.

SORRY but, kids will do what you do and not what you say. That means, telling your 5-year-old to eat her broccoli while you chow down on ainw m&m’s probably won’t do them, or you, any good. Make sure you’re learning as much as possible about a healthy balanced diet while practicing other healthy behaviors such as mindful eating, regular exercise, managing stress, and getting 6-8 hours of sleep every night.

2) Make it a family affair.

The whole family should be involved in practicing healthy habits. Whether you all make time to exercise together, eat dinner every night together at the table, or spend time growing some fresh veggies in the backyard, the whole family, especially both parents, should be involved.

3) Avoid “fat” and “skinny” talk.

Even if its not directed towards your children, saying the words “fat” and “skinny” are negative and can seriously impact your child’s health perspective. Instead use words like “healthy” or “not healthy” which are less offensive and severe. Make sure you avoid discussing your child’s weight in a negative way in front of them and its even best to not focus too much on weight at all.  Calling yourself “fat” won’t help either! Again, your child picks up on everything you do.

4) Offer a food at least 10 times before giving up.

Studies show children will be more likely to eat their greens, or any other produce, if they are offered it several times a month. On the flip side, NEVER force your child to eat anything they don’t want to, just have it available and in front of them to increase the likelihood of them accepting it. For example, keep a salad on the dinner table every night, have fresh carrots and celery sticks in the fridge for snacking, and stock a fresh bowl of fruit on the counter at all times to encourage children to eat their produce.

5) Never hide food.

Hiding food will only make them feel less in control of their ability to self-regulate and encourages eating disorder behaviors later in life. If there is food in the house that you don’t want your children to eat, don’t have it in there period!

6) Encourage exercise as much as possible.

If your children expresses an interest in sports or dancing lessons, make it a priority to sign them up as it is the easiest and most effective way to keep your children active. Involve yourself in your children’s activities as well by playing catch in the backyard, attending your children’s sporting games or dance recitals, or learning more about the game so you can discuss it. Your children will forever have positive memories about exercising and feel closer to you  at the same time.

7) Be creative in the kitchen to get your children to eat more fruits and veggies.

Statistics show children are still not eating enough fruits and veggies. The best way to get them in is to make it fun! Make funny shapes or smiley faces with fresh produce, include tasty dips like guacamole, nutella, or cool whip and let your children make decisions on their own about what to eat so they feel more excited about it. Here a few easy-to-make, nutritious, kid-friendly recipes for after school snacks:

  • Whole Grain Pizza – Cut open a 100% whole wheat english  muffin  and layer each side with veggie tomato sauce, 1 tbsp of shredded mozzarella cheese and place in toaster oven at 350F for 5-10 minutes

  • Sweet N’ Salty Roll-Up – Lay out a whole wheat tortilla and spread on 2 tbsp of honey peanut butter. Slice small red delicious apple in to thin slices and top tortilla with it. Roll it up and cut into 1 inch thick pieces.

  • Fruit Skewers – Take wooden skewers and slide on different fruits such as grapes, cantaloupe, bananas and strawberries.

  • Banana Dippers – Dip peeled bananas into melted dark chocolate and then chopped nuts like almonds, walnuts, or pistachios and freeze for a delicious frozen treat.

  • Trail Mix – In a big bowl combine honey nut chex mix, roasted peanuts, raisins, salted popcorn, and almonds.

  • Fresh Smoothie – Blend together skim milk, strawberries, bananas, raw oats, honey and natural peanut butter. Add in chia/flax seeds for an extra nutrition punch that your kids will never even notice.

  • Yogurt Parfait – Layer vanilla or cinnamon granola on top of vanilla yogurt with dried fruit and nuts. Drizzle with honey for a touch of sweetness.

Nick VanMeter