Nutrition and Wellness
One of the easiest ways to impact overweight and obesity is to change bad eating habits and add exercise to your child’s daily routine.
There are many theories about what works best: low fat, high protein, no carbs, only carbs, etc. However, children need a balanced approach – with a variety of nutrient dense foods – to encourage proper growth and development.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (www.healthychildren.org) recommends consistent nutrition choices for everyone in your family, minimizing junk food choices and eliminating sugary beverages like soft drinks and fruity juice drinks with corn syrup. Mind portion sizes and make sure daily exercise is included and children will grow to have a healthy weight.
When planning family meals and snacks, choose from:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole-grain cereals and bread
- Low-fat or nonfat dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheeses
- Lean and skinless meats including chicken, turkey, fish, and lean hamburger
Portion control: Learn how to read food labels and know what portion you and your child should enjoy at each meal.
A few good rules from the Food & Drug Administration:
- More than 400 calories per serving of a single food is high.
- Choose foods that are lower in fats, cholesterol and sodium.
- Choose foods with higher daily values of potassium, fiber, vitamins A & C, iron and calcium. (5% of DV is low, 20% is high)
- Limit foods with high values of trans and saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium and sugars.
Healthy Snack Ideas
It’s pretty easy these days to find healthy choices that appeal to your taste buds but aren’t loaded with sugar, salt or empty calories, or those with little or no nutritional values.
Start with fresh fruits and veggies – carrots and celery sticks can easily be cut into bite-sized serving portions and cherry tomatoes and grapes are ready to go – and loaded with essential vitamins and nutrients. All are tasty and can be packed in easy to carry zip bags or plastic containers for healthy treats!
Dried fruits – apricots, apples, pineapple and more are abundant at health food stores and grocery stores. Watch out for added sugar, sometimes used to sweeten or dust tart fruits. Buy organic if possible.
Nuts – If nut allergies are not a problem for you, here’s good news: almonds, cashews, pecans and peanuts are all great snack choices! look for sea-salted or low salt versions and mind portions as most nuts – though a filling and
nutrient-packed choice – also have natural oils and monounsaturated fats (which are fine in moderation).
Calorie Controlled Portions – Many snack choices are now available in snack-sized/100 calorie portions. They tend to be more costly than generic or value portion items, but often can be found in bulk/warehouse stores and on sale.
As with anything, focus on healthy choices – and not just on calories!
Here are some good choices:
- Mini boxes of raisins
- Small bags of pretzels
- String cheese – individually wrapped, low fat cheese sticks are great paired with fruits
- Small yogurt cups
- Mini bagels
- Small packages of trail mix
- Water – Six to eight 8 oz. glasses are recommended daily
- Low fat or skim milk – A good, healthy choice and tummy-filling at snack time! Aim for one 4 or 6 oz. serving with one of the snack options listed above
- Water/Fruit Beverage Pouches – A good alternative to fructose-sweetened fruit pouches and boxes