by Dan McCarthy
One cannot enter a grocery store without being bombarded with the onslaught of temptations for sweets, chips, and sugary drinks. The advantage of being an adult is the ability to be educated on the contents of the often vibrantly packaged and clever marketing tactics of these food companies. By being educated, we can make healthy choices for our children to help the fight against childhood obesity. However, through clever marketing these food companies entice our children with toys, celebrity endorsements, or a cute cartoon characters, and often leave us the “bad guys” when saying no. Instead of being the bearer of bad news, we can educate our children on the benefits of healthy eating and the importance of the nutrients fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and water, has on their growth and development. Below you will find some helpful “Do’s” and “Do not’s” to help you plan your child’s daily food menu.
All children need the same food and nutrients as adults just in smaller amounts
When selecting food for your children you don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary or special as they require the same nutrients as you, just in smaller amounts. These nutrients are all the same vitamins and minerals that you get from eating healthy fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, grains, and dairy.
A 2-3 year old will require about 1,000 – 1,400 calories a day, while boys that are 4-8 will require 1,200 to 2,000 based upon activity, and girls 4-8 will require 1,200 – 1,800 a day
Keep portions small
When you are preparing a meal for your children, you may want to consider using a smaller plate. This will help you regulate the serving size, prevent them from wasting as much food, and help you ensure they are getting the right amount to eat without overfilling their plate, and then encouraging them to “clean their plate”. Encouraging them to clean their plate can force them to eat too much. Instead, give them a smaller plate with smaller portions, they can always get more.
Keep fruits and vegetables washed and ready to consume so they will be easy snacks for your children to grab. Explain to them the various vitamins and antioxidants each one contains to help encourage them to make healthy snacking decisions. The occasional bag of chips or cookies is okay and its part of being a kid, but make sure you read the serving size on the back to help ensure you child doesn’t get too many bad calories.
The Do not’s
Avoid Breakfast Cereal
I’m sure we all remember the excitement of digging to the bottom of the cereal box in a mad frenzy to capture the toy that lay at the very bottom of the box. The thought of getting a “reward” for eating cereal was almost as thrilling as purchasing one you wanted from the toy aisle. Whether it’s John Cena encouraging your child to apart of “team fruity”, or a funny little leprechaun encouraging you to “follow the rainbow”, the cereal aisle is loaded with colorful boxes filled with sugar and toys. We are often hard pressed to believe that a box with cartoons on it could be unhealthy to our children, but the sugar content of ¾ of a cup of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks Cereal is 15 grams! To put that in perspective that’s 4 teaspoons of sugar!
Drink’s that say “No added sugar” are not as healthy as you think
Sugar, whether added or natural, is sugar! With all the drinks marketed to children, and all of these loaded with sugar, it’s no wonder why were in the middle of an obesity epidemic! An 8 Oz serving of Sunny Delight is 130 calories and has 30 grams of sugar, that’s almost 8 teaspoons of sugar! A 12 ounce can of coke contains 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar; it is drinks like these that are contributing to the rapid weight gain among our youth!
Bake instead of fry
In an age of fried Twinkies and pretty much fried anything; it’s easy to get something quick and fried. While chicken tenders are my favorite food, it’s hard to deny they are certainly less healthy and provide extra calories and fat versus the much healthier baked option. Many recipes offer baked alternatives to our fried favorites that do not sacrifice the taste, but they exclude the calories.
Just remember to keep it simple with fruits, vegetables, lean cuts of meat, fish, chicken, whole grains and dairy. All of these items are found on the exterior of the grocery store while all the boxed items are located on the interior. Children can easily drink most of the caloric intake with sugary juices and soda pop so remember; “no added sugars” does not mean the drink is healthy; water is always the best form of hydration. If your kids think that water is too bland simply squeeze lemon or lime into the water or you can look how to infuse water with various fruits. Childhood obesity is an epidemic, and this is a simple way we can help the keep our children healthy, not a statistic.