6 Simple Steps to Good Nutrition for Kids
Good health starts with good nutrition. When you teach your children healthy eating habits starting at a young age, you’ll be giving them habits that will serve them well for a lifetime.
The good news is that it’s easier than you think. You don’t have to count calories, cook elaborate meals, or give up your favorite desserts to maintain a healthy diet. The key is balance and eating a variety of foods in reasonable amounts.
In June 2011, the U.S. government unveiled its new guidelines for healthy eating. MyPlate, which replaces the Food Guide Pyramid, is the picture of simplicity; it suggests you divide your plate into four parts that include almost equal portions of fruits, vegetables, protein and grain. Drink low or nonfat milk and avoid sugary drinks.
Keep MyPlate in mind along with the following tips, to steer yourself and your family toward healthy eating -- and a healthy lifestyle.
Follow these six simple tips and you’ll be on your way to eating right:
1. Start the day strong. Good nutrition begins with a healthy breakfast. Eating breakfast will help your child concentrate and do well in school, too. Offer whole wheat toast, whole grain waffles, cereal and milk, or a yogurt fruit smoothie if you’re on the run.
2. You can have your cake and eat it, too. Healthy eating means you can have dessert and treats so long as it’s not at every meal and the portion is small. You don’t need to think of foods as being “good” or “bad.” If your child has ice cream today, let her enjoy it, then offer her fruit for dessert at the next meal.
3. Mix it up! Encourage your child to eat a variety of foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. Offer raw and cooked vegetables, and try different varieties. Whole grains can include whole wheat pasta, pita bread, and bagels, too. Protein is found in fish, eggs, poultry, lean meat, nuts, and seeds. Your child’s growing body needs calcium, which is found in milk, but also in yogurt, cheese, tofu, cottage cheese, canned salmon and dark green vegetables. Your child needs all these nutrients to grow up healthy and strong.
4. Drink to your health. Drinking soda can add “empty”calories and sugar to your child’s diet, and lead to weight gain. Diet drinks are not a good alternative as soda has been shown to leach calcium from growing bones. Teenage girls who drink a lot of diet sodas in an effort to stay slim are four times more likely to break a bone than teenage boys. Water is the best beverage, and lowfat or nonfat milk provides adequate calcium in your child’s diet. If your child wants a little sweetness for a treat, try mixing bubbly water with fruit juice.
5. Healthy eating isn’t just for kids. Your child will develop healthy eating habits if the whole family is eating right. Cooking healthy meals together, eating as a family, and talking about healthy food choices will all have a positive effect. Remember: your child will be watching what you eat, too!
6. You’re more than what you eat. A healthy lifestyle includes physical activity, too. Turn off the TV and the computer, and get moving! More than 50% of the commercials aired during children's programs are food-related, so turning off the TV means tuning out temptation. Biking, hiking, walking, running, and dancing are all fun activities for kids to do with each other and with the whole family during outings.
When your children learn to eat right, drink water to their hearts’ content, and have a blast exercising, they’ll be on their way to practicing healthy habits that will serve them well for a lifetime.
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