Dr. Ann's Parent Tips........
1. As a parent, the single-most powerful means to improve you child’s eating habits is to be a good role model. When it comes to healthy eating, children respond more to your actions than your words.
2. Regular physical activity is essential for good health and brain function. Ensure that your child accumulates one hour or more of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity daily to include vigorous activity at least 3 days a week.
3. Take charge of your kitchen! Ensure that your cupboards and refrigerator are filled with a variety of healthful choices like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit the availability of fast foods, junk foods and sweets. After all if its not there, it is not an option!
4. Be vigilant in limiting your child’s intake of sugary beverages like soda, fruit drinks, and sports drinks. Sugary beverages have emerged as the most fattening of all forms of calories. Provide water, low-fat or skim milk, calcium-fortified soy milk and 100% fruit juice. (100% fruit juice should be limited to 4-6 oz daily for kids under 12 and 8-12 oz daily for teens)
5. Sit down for “family meals” as often as possible. Studies confirm that this tradition enhances healthful eating. Kids who sit down regularly for family meals consume more fruits, vegetables and calcium and less sodium, sugar and unhealthy fats.
6. Include your child in both the selection of foods and the preparation of “healthy” meals. Studies confirm that the more engaged kids are in the planning and preparation of foods, the more apt they are to eat and enjoy the meal. I always get my kids to help prepare the dinner salad.
7. At dinner time, make the starch (carb) offered a healthy one. Great choices include corn, beans (any type), brown rice, small new potatoes with the skin, multigrain pasta and sweet potatoes.
8. Recognize that both color and variety stimulate appetite and use it to your nutritional advantage. Serve a medley of fresh, colorful cut up fruit for a snack or as part of your child’s breakfast. Offer a pre-dinner appetizer of fresh, colorful veggies – carrots, cucumbers, red bell peppers etc with a healthy dip like hummus or low-fat ranch dressing.
9. Kids are very sensitive to and responsive to the presentation of food. Keeps things fun, lively and creative for best results. For example, make fruit and veggie kabobs; roll up a banana cut lengthwise in a whole grain tortilla, spread with peanut butter; make a quick homemade pizza with whole grain English muffins, bottled tomato sauce and shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese.
10. Kids love finger foods! Keep a variety of healthy finger foods in your kitchen at all times. Great choices include pineapple chunks, berries, watermelon wedges, part-skim mozzarella string cheese sticks, 2% milk cheese cubes, baby carrots, raisins, sunflower seeds and nuts.
11. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, encourage and challenge your kids to “eat from all colors of the rainbow.” Brightly colored produce offers the highest levels of nutrients and each color provides special attributes. The superstar fruits and veggies for health include: all cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards), carrots, garlic, onions, leeks, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, winter squash, asparagus, red/orange/yellow bell peppers, berries, cherries, plums, any whole citrus, cantaloupe, kiwi, mango, peaches, pears, red grapes, apples, and dried or fresh apricots.
12. To get your kids to eat more veggies – exploit their sweet tooth! Kids have a highly developed innate love for things that taste sweet. Offer the “sweeter tasting” veggies – baby peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, red or yellow bell peppers, cherry/grape tomatoes and sugar snap peas.
13. Sneak more veggies in your kids’ meal by going stealth!
· Shred veggies (or buy them already shredded) carrots, zucchini, cabbage, broccoli, etc. and add to meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, lasagna, and baked goods like muffins.
· Add canned pumpkin (high in fiber and loaded with vitamin A and other carotenoids) to soups, baked goods and pancakes. I always add canned pumpkin to my corn bread!
· Add finely shredded kale or spinach to soups, stews and smoothies.
· Make “mock-mashed” potatoes from cooked cauliflower.
14. Whole grains provide powerful disease protection and whole grain cereals are a quick, easy and convenient way to get more whole grain goodness into your kids. To select a healthy cereal, refer to the “Nutrition Facts” box and be sure it provides 3 grams or more of fiber per serving and 12 grams or less of sugar per serving.
15. Have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for trans fats in your home. Trans fats are a toxic form of fat found in stick margarines, shortening and processed foods that contain “partially hydrogenated” oils. Check labels so you can keep it out!
16. Some vegetables are healthier cooked and some are healthier raw. Your best bet is to include some of both in your family’s diet each day.
Other helpful nutriton related Web sites:
Action For Healthy Kids
The American Cancer Society
The American Dietetic Association
American Heart Association
International Food Information Council (IFIC)
MyPyramid Tracker is an online dietary and physical activity assessment tool that provides information on your diet quality, physical activity status, related nutrition messages, and links to nutrient and physical activity information.
National Eating Disorders Association
National Institutes of Health
National Lunch and Breakfast Program
United States Department of Agriculture
U.S. FDA interactive food label educational tool
Vegetarian Resource Group