Back to Basics
Remember that Food Pyramid poster hanging in your school nurse’s office? Well, believe it or not, it was right! After all of the high tech toys we’ve invented and the new fad diets we’ve tried, in the end our bodies still need the same wholesome balance of foods.
Visit the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion for your own free printable Food Guide Pyramids. They even have a cute, full-color Food Pyramid for Kids that includes a helpful Food Chart worksheet where you can keep track of the foods your kids are eating. Put it on your refrigerator and have your kids help cook “balanced meals.”
Getting your kids involved in choosing healthier meals can be fun. Teach them about the food pyramid by having them categorize different foods and then draw nutritious and balanced meals. Check out Kristi’s fun idea to Bring the Food Pyramid to Life!
Is your local pizzeria on your speed dial? Well, eating healthy doesn’t have to seem impossible, don’t get overwhelmed . . . just try some of our simple ideas to get the ball rolling:
- Eat REAL Foods. Fresh foods and homemade meals are always better than things out of a can or box. Just look at the difference between fresh and canned corn:
13 mg vit C
80 mcg folate
350 mg sodium
19 mg vit C
130 mcg folate
40 mg sodium
Plus it’s more fun to eat corn-on-the-cob than corn-in-the-can!
- Fresh Veggies? Growing your own Garden is fun and educational. In the end, you know exactly what’s in your food and you can save tons of money, too!
- When you do eat pre-packaged food, be sure to Read Labels Carefully. I avoid foods that have unfamiliar items in the ingredient list – what is “propyl gallate” anyway? Click here for a great guide on How to Read Labels.
- Make simple switches: Drink 100% fruit juices instead of Capri-suns and Kool-Aid.
- Snacking is Better. Rather than preparing and eating three square meals a day, try eating 4-6 nutrient-rich snack-size meals. Your family’s digestive systems will be healthier and their brains will be able to focus longer – so say goodbye to after-lunch drowsiness!
- Throw out the Fritos. Keep healthy snacks around so that your hungry kids are reaching for banana chips instead of potato chips. Some great healthy snacks are dried fruits (try to get the kind without sulfur dioxide, some kids may have bad reactions to it), unsalted nuts, raisins, yogurt, boiled eggs, and sliced cheeses.
- Let them decide. Giving younger children food options teaches them how to make healthy choices. Ask, “Do you want an apple or a banana?” and let them decide which fruit looks best. Older children can help plan weekly dinners, pick out groceries, or even help cook. So, rather than battling with your children over food, include them in the process and make eating healthy a family event.
When you’re tempted to slip back into your old habits. Remembering what NOT to do will help you stay on track:
- Don’t tempt yourself. I know, easier said than done, right? Well, here are some tips that can help:
- Leave cookies at the store! I have little self-control at home – if there’s a box of Oreo cookies in the pantry I’m going to eat them! Write a healthy grocery list and stick to it when shopping. When it’s snack time at home, you’ll have no choice but to choose healthy.
- Take food with you when you’re out on the town. Pack healthy finger foods and beverages instead of stopping off at the nearest drive-through. This is healthier and easier on your budget.
- Skip the Caffeine. Caffeine offers no nutritional value but is known to disrupt a child’s mood, sleep patterns, and even lead to a lowered ability to process iron (a very important mineral). On a hot day skip the sodas and hand your family sliced watermelon instead.
- However, caffeine can be a controversial topic. Most research suggests that diabetics should avoid caffeine altogether while some newer research is showing that consuming A LOT of caffeine (4-6 cups of coffee a day) might actually lower your risk of getting diabetes in the first place. Check out these pro & con articles for more info.
- Help! I have a Picky Eater! Many of us have picky eaters but don’t give in! Believe it or not, telling your son, “If you eat all of your spinach then you can have a cookie” can help to develop the wrong attitude toward food – you want your kids to grow up craving healthy foods, not thinking of them as a punishment or a hurdle to get over.
- If your child is a picky eater, include healthy ingredients in foods that they like. If they like pancakes, make banana or blueberry pancakes. Smoothies are a great trick for any Mom. Although they’re made from frozen or fresh fruits, yogurt, and milk you can easily get your child to think it’s as good as ice cream!
- Don’t cave in to your picky eater’s demands because this can reinforce with them that they don’t have to eat healthy like the rest of the family. Start by including something that you know they like at every meal. Eating with the rest of the family will also help them to accept new foods more willingly.
Intolerances, Deficiencies, or Just Grumpy?
Unlike food allergies that can result in serious reactions (like allergies to peanuts), food intolerances can be harder to spot. Kids sensitive to wheat or dairy products (the most common intolerances) may show symptoms of fatigue, bloating, discomfort, or even behavioral and emotional problems. If this sounds like your child, talk to your doctor about cutting out wheat and dairy for at least a month to see if they improve. Click here for some tasty Wheat-Free and Dairy-Free Recipes.
- Studies show that children diagnosed with ADHD can improve dramatically when placed on wheat-free or dairy-free diets. They may also have intolerances to food preservatives, additives, or dyes.
Irritable or sleepy kids may be suffering from nutrient deficiencies. Check out our Quick Guide to Vitamins & Minerals to learn more.
All Work and No Play?
Life, after all, is all about balance. Eating healthy on a regular basis is important, but so are those occasional fun family trips to the local pizzeria or a pińata filled with sugary goodness on your son’s birthday. Staying healthy is important, but it’s also good to cut loose!
Find Out More!
There’s tons of information out there on kids’ health and nutrition. Here are some of my favorites: