Healthy Meal Times and Snack Choices (page 4)
How can I get my child to eat more fruits and vegetables? My child doesn’t like milk. What is a proper portion size for my child? How do I know if my child is getting all the necessary nutrients? Should my child take a vitamin supplement?
Modeling healthy eating habits
Telling your child to eat well isn’t enough; you have to model good eating habits too. Your child learns much more from what you do than from what you say. Show your child good eating habits by choosing healthy foods, proper proportions, and appropriate snacks. Bad habits are also passed to your child. If you have unhealthy habits or a poor body image, your child may, too. Your choices set the stage for your child’s lifetime of eating habits. Here are some helpful tips:
Plan meal and snack times. Routines can help children develop good habits.
Eat together. Spend this time discussing pleasant topics and staying familiar with your child’s daily activities.
Introduce new foods, but try to include at least one of your child’s favorites.
Provide small portions and allow a little time (at least twenty minutes) between helpings – for adults and children this allows time for the stomach to tell the brain it is full.
Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans to help plan meals for your whole family that will incorporate all of the necessary nutrients for healthful eating.
Children need lots of vitamins, minerals, and healthy energy for their growing bodies. According to both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dietetic Association, when a child eats a varied diet, supplements are not usually necessary. Variety in their diet will provide them with opportunities to find fruits, vegetables, and other foods they like, while meeting their needs. One good way to offer variety is by having a snack tray for them with lots of different choices, like cubes of cheese, cut pieces of vegetables, boiled egg slices, and sliced fruit. If your child doesn’t like milk, substitute other dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and even ice cream. Smoothies are another great way to incorporate more fruit – blend your child’s favorites with a little juice or milk and ice or ice cream. Consult the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children for information on serving recommendations, how to include variety, and more. If you’re still concerned about your child’s intake of vitamins and minerals, give children’s supplements only and use as directed on the label or consult your physician. NOTE: Over-consumption of iron-containing vitamins is the most common form of poisoning in children under 6 years according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The importance of calcium
Your child needs calcium—and lots of it! The best way to get calcium and all vitamins and minerals is through a healthy, balanced diet that provides lots of nutrients, fiber, and energy. The easiest way to get calcium is through dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Children should be fed full-fat dairy products (whole milk instead of skim, etc.) until age two, and then they should be weaned to lower fat and eventually non-fat products. If your child does not like milk or is allergic to it, try feeding him other calcium-enriched products such as soy milk, soy yogurt, tofu, or orange juice with calcium. Dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach are also good sources of calcium. According to the National Academy of Sciences, children 1 to 3 years old should consume 500 mg of calcium per day, and kids 4 to 8 years old should consume 800 mg per day. Kids over eight should get 1,300 mg of calcium per day. When combined with a well-balanced diet and exercise, calcium helps build strong bones and teeth and can protect your child from osteoporosis later in life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a great web site for girls on the importance of calcium. It includes information on strong bones, fitness tips, games and quizzes and links to other great sites for girls. Visit http://www.cdc.gov/powerfulbones/ for more information.
Get kids involved
Mealtimes can be even more fun when the kids get to help. This can start with a trip to the store. Getting kids to think about healthy foods early is a great way to begin healthy eating habits. Stroll through the produce section and let your child look at and smell fruits and vegetables – you can make a game of naming them correctly!
Helping with preparation can be an even bigger adventure for kids – and for you. Let your child help with activities that are appropriate for his skill level. Always watch carefully to make sure that he doesn’t hurt himself. Here are some ideas:
- Open packages and pour contents into a bowl
- Stir bowl of ingredients with wooden spoon
- Pour liquids into batter
- Press and roll dough
- Use cookie cutters
- Sprinkle toppings
- Mash potatoes
- Peel vegetables with safety peeler
- Set and clear the table
Activities like these can help build your child’s sense of independence, another important part of child-wellness.
Mealtimes should be relaxing for all
Mealtimes can be a great time to connect to your family. Turning off the TV and minimizing distractions can help focus kids on eating. Give your child plenty of time to talk and eat. Focus on the mealtime experience. If your child has already eaten, allow her to stay at the table with you to participate in the bonding time. Don’t argue about food or force your child to eat, as this can have negative impacts on your child’s perceptions of food. While eating with a toddler can be a challenge, it can also be lots of fun!
American Academy of Pediatrics: the Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics
American Dietetic Association
The country’s premier association for dietetic professionals offers a wealth of information on nutrition. Their parent’s reading list for healthy nutrition is especially helpful.
Feeding Infants and Toddlers Under Two Years
This site includes information and ideas from the American Dietetic Association on feeding your toddler or infant.
Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC)
The FNIC is located at the National Agricultural Library (NAL), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and contains information from A-Z about nutrition.
Growing a Happy, Healthy Child: Helping Your Toddler Learn About Food
This is a good resource from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for teaching your toddler about food and nutrition.
Healthful Snacks for Children Two to Five Years of Age
Created by the University of Nebraska, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this site offers a variety of snack tips and ideas.
The Produce Patch
This is part of the Produce Marketing Association’s web site and is a great way to teach your child about fruits and vegetables. There are interactive games and coloring pages!
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Tips for Using the Food Guide Pyramid
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children includes information on serving sizes for children as well as suggestions on good selections from each food group.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
This site has information on iron poisoning from over-consumption of iron-containing vitamin and mineral supplements.
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