With the school year starting, it’s a good time for a quick review of how we can help our kids eat better. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff, but since we tend to set patterns at the beginning of the school year, it’s helpful to think about the year’s intentions from the start.
Preschool to PreteenFor this age group, maintaining positive habits at home is especially important.
- Make sure every bite your child eats is as nutrient dense as possible. Allowing them to fill up on non-nutritive calories (like too much juice) can displace the nutritious foods they would have otherwise eaten.
- Choose whole grains and whole grain products (breads, pastas, brown rice, bulgur, oatmeal) instead of refined grain products.
- Limit access to “junk” foods, but provide some alternative sweet options. Making all sweets forbidden may only intensify a child’s attraction to them.
- Model good nutrition choices. If you choose fries instead of a baked potato, you can expect them to do the same.
- Fill nutrition gaps with a range of healthy snacks. What your child eats between meals is just as important as what is eaten during meals.
- Discourage the habit of eating and watching television simultaneously. Consider limiting television, which has been linked with childhood and adolescent obesity.
- For older children and adolescents concerned about their weight, teach them that physical activity (rather than dieting) is the best route for weight loss. Engage them in physical activities that you can do together so that you have fun and both of you get some exercise.
TeensHelp teens stay healthy by explaining the benefits of eating well. Use motivating examples, like improved performance in school, sports or their favorite creative outlet.
- Teens need more vitamin C, calcium and iron than adults.
- Getting enough calcium, along with magnesium and vitamin D, is important for bone support.
- For healthy skin, teens need lots of nutrients, water, fiber and essential fat; less sugar and highly processed foods and drinks.
- Teens who eat on the run, are active in sports or are concerned about weight should consider a good supplement to help fill the gaps in their nutrient intake.
- The teen years can be very stressful. Stress can wreak havoc on skin, moods and eating habits. Help your teen learn coping skills for stress.