Approximately 17% of American children and adolescents aged 2-19 years old are obese (1). Teaching today’s kids to eat right is essential for the health and wellbeing of future generations to come. To emphasize the importance of healthy eating and active lifestyles for children and families, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have launched the first ever Kids Eat Right Month for the month of August. Shopping smart, cooking healthy, and eating right are all cornerstones for eating healthy.
- Shopping smart. Getting kids involved in selecting the foods that appear at the table or in their lunch box will increase the likelihood that they will eat it. And, no, this does not mean getting them involved in choosing packaged foods and sweetened beverages—I am willing to guess they have no problem eating these types of items. Instead, take them to the produce section and allow them to choose one or a few items of their liking. If this doesn’t work out, don’t get discouraged and keep trying, kids may need over a dozen exposures to a new food to try it and decide whether or not they like it.
- Cooking healthy. As with getting the kids involved in selecting foods in the grocery stores, getting kids involved with cooking connects them with the meal and increases the likelihood they will eat it or at least try it. Allow them to tear the lettuce for the salad, snap off the heads of broccoli, measure out and add the spices, and even stir. Make it fun!
- Eating right. After selecting healthy foods at the grocery store and cooking a healthy meal out of them, take the time to sit down at the table as a family to eat together. Take the time as an opportunity to talk to each other about one’s day. It can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but try to aim to sit down for at least one meal a day together—with no TV or other distractions. Kids with families who sit down and eat meals together are less likely to be overweight or obese, eat healthier foods, do better in school, have improved psychological well-being, and reduced risk for eating disorders, substance abuse, and violence (2, 3). Aim for three or more meals together as a family each week!
The best way to develop healthy eating habits in your kids is to serve as a role model. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables, choose whole grains, low fat dairy and meat products, and drink water instead of sugary drinks. And, finally, it is all about balance – calories in and calories out. Get active with your kids on a regular basis. Exercise also helps build strong muscles and bones, decrease risk of developing type 2 diabetes, have a better outlook on life, potentially lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, improves sleep, and increases the ability to focus in school (4).
For those of you who know me personally or have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I used to volunteer with the Growe Foundation in Boulder, CO. Their mission is to educate children about the benefits of healthy eating and caring for the environment.
While volunteering with Growe I helped teach a few nutrition lessons for myself. Read more about each one by clicking the links.
Learn more about Kids Eat Right here: http://www.kidseatright.org/. Find articles, recipes, tips, and videos for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, gradeschoolers, and teens. You can also follow them on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Google+. For more health and nutrition information for preschoolers, including tips on developing healthy eating habits, help for picky eaters, as well as sample meal plans and snacks click here. For nutrition related games for kids click here.
How do you get your kids right? Or how did your parents/guardians get you to eat right as a kid?