Healthy Eating for Kids – Start When They’re Young

healthy eating for kids

As a personal trainer I have heard this many times:

“I only have junk food in the house for my kids”

Childhood obesity has reached pandemic levels. That is why it is time to teach healthy eating for kids now, before it’s too late.

  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who are obese was 18% and adolescents aged 12–19 years were 21% in 2012, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • Two-thirds of these overweight kids will become overweight adults.
  • Learn to prevent obesity and help your kids stay at a more healthy weight.

Why are Kids Overweight?

  • Less Active: They watch too much TV and play a lot of video games
  • Fast food: with high calorie and high fat super-sized meals
  • Sodas and other caloric drinks: Drinking a lot of soft drinks and sugary ‘fruit’ drinks are also linked to obesity. the mega drinks or Big Gulps at 7-11?
  • Schools: allow students to buy snacks and soft drinks from vending machines and don’t always require physical education classes
  • Doctors: who don’t do enough to encourage breastfeeding, which can decrease a child’s risk of becoming overweight later in life, and who don’t encourage and educate parents and children about healthy lifestyles

Who’s to Blame?healthy eating for kids

  • only 1% of parents blamed manufactures
  • 7% blamed advertising on TV, etc
  • 9% blamed the child
  • 10% blamed fast food companies

Surprisingly, 2/3 of parents blamed themselves. After all, especially for younger kids, parents are the only ones that have control over all of these things. Parents can help their kids make healthy food choices, both at home and when eating fast food. They can limit TV watching and time spent playing video games, and can encourage kids to be more active.

Soda in Schools

Healthy eating for kids should the be number one concern in school cafeterias. Guidelines from The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, William J. Clinton Foundation, American Heart Association, and beverage industry leaders will help to limit one of those risk factors – soda in schools.

Under these new guidelines, elementary and middle schools will only be able to sell water, low fat milk, and juice with no sugar added, although the rules are a little more liberal for high schools, who can also sell diet soda, sports drinks, and other low calorie drinks.

Portion sizes will also be capped depending on the type of school, with elementary school students only being able to get 8oz drinks, middle school students having 10oz drinks available, and the serving size increasing to 12oz in high schools.

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What can Be Done to Encourage Healthy Eating for Kids?

  • Promote healthy eating patterns by offering nutritious snacks, such as vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy foods, and whole grains; encouraging children’s autonomy in self-regulation of food intake and setting appropriate limits on choices; and modeling healthy food choices
  • Limiting the number of calories that your child drinks. For example, many kids drink too much juice and soda each day. Sticking to the usual recommend limits of 4-6 ounces of 100% fruit juice for children under age 6 years and only 8-12 ounces for older children can help to limit excessive weight gain.
  • Limiting the amount of milk that younger children drink. Although drinking milk is important and it is a good source of calcium, too much milk can lead to your child becoming overweight. Obesity often starts in early childhood, with a common scenario being a child who drinks too much milk. Children usually only need about 16-24 ounces of milk each day.
  • Avoid frequent meals of fast food.
  • Don’t ‘super size’ your child’s meals. A common problem that contributes to overweight children are meals with portions that are too large.
  • Don’t force younger children to ‘clean their plates.’ An important way to help children learn to eat healthy is for them to know that they can stop eating when they are full.
  • Encourage regular exercise and physical activity in your children each day. This may include going for walks as a family, playing outside, riding a bike, or participating in organized sports, like soccer and baseball.
  • Limit inactivity by setting strict limits on watching television and playing computer and video games.
  • Avoid allowing your children eat while watching TV. Instead, limit meals to the dinner table.
  • Don’t put too much of a focus on what your child eats. Remember not too restrict calories and instead, offer a healthy diet with 3 healthy meals (don’t skip meals, especially breakfast) and a few snacks, and allow occasional treats. Talking to your child too much about calories, fat and dieting can actually cause more harm than good, leading to eating disorders.
  • Know what your child is eating and where his calories are coming from.
  • Be a good role model for your children by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Keep in mind that a healthy diet is usually low in saturated fat (<10% of calories) and cholesterol (<300 mg/d) and moderate in total fat (<30%–35% calories).

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How to Deal with a Picky Eater

  • Never coax, bribe, punish, or nag. Avoid the battles! Hide your anxiety and concern about eating!
  • Keep introducing new foods over again. Don’t avoid it just because they didn’t like it once, they may change their mind.
    Don’t dictate how much you think your child should eat. Let your child decide how much they will eat.
  • Change your buying habits if you find your child is “stuck on” certain unhealthy foods.
  • Offer fruits as dessert. Use it on its own as dessert or add it to ice cream, pudding or cake. Make your own fruit popsicles (have your child help you, it will have more value to them) out of fresh fruit, yogurt, juice or milk.
  • Avoid lots of juices, sodas and milk as substitutes for eating real food.
  • Avoid frequent snacking habits. Avoid snacks in the car or while standing around and playing. Use a snack plan.
  • Disguise foods and combine foods they like with those they don’t like.
  • Dessert is NOT a reward. For those stubborn kids who try to hold out for dessert, offer dessert with the main meal. Of course, make sure it is a small, reasonable serving. Most kids will not get full with a small dessert and then they are free to “indulge” in the rest of the meal.

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Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Family Food Zone

Improve school Foods

Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

Health Kids

Health Kids – Recipes

Honey We’re Killing the Kids – television program about nutrition

 

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