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Planning For A Healthy School Year

Healthy Eating

How Can I Help My Child Eat Better?

MyPlate Icon; five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, dairy

Use less fat, salt, and sugar

Some tips to consider:

  • Cook with fewer solid fats. Use olive or canola oil instead of butter or margarine. Bake or roast instead of frying. You can get a crunchy texture with "oven-frying" recipes that involve little or no oil.
  • Choose and prepare foods with less salt. Keep the saltshaker off the table. Have fruits and vegetables on hand for snacks instead of salty snacks like chips.
  • Limit the amount of sugar your child eats. Choose cereals with low sugar or with dried fruits as the source of sugar.
  • Reshape the plate
  • Make half of what is on your child's plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid oversized portions.

The MyPlate icon and web address are provided courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

What should my child eat?

Just like adults, children need to eat a wide variety of foods. Every 5 years, the U.S. federal government releases a set of guidelines on healthy eating. The guidelines suggest balancing calories with physical activity. The guidelines also recommend improving eating habits to promote health, reduce the risk of disease, and reduce overweight and obesity. The guidelines encourage Americans ages 2 years and older to eat a variety of healthy foods. Suggested items include the following:

  • Fruits, vegetables, unsalted nuts and seeds, and whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Lean meats, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, soy products, and eggs

The guidelines also suggest reducing salt (sodium), refined grains, added sugars, and solid fats (like lard, butter, and margarine). Added sugars and solid fats often occur in pizzas, sodas, sugar-sweetened drinks, desserts like cookies or cake, and fast foods. These foods are the main sources of high fat and sugar among children and teens. Another important guideline is to make sure your children eat breakfast to spark the energy they need to focus in school. Not eating breakfast is often linked to overweight and obesity, especially in children and teens.

Four For Fitness

Experts note that most Americans don't get enough potassium, calcium, vitamin D, and dietary fiber. Calcium builds strong bones and teeth. Potassium helps lower blood pressure and reduces bone loss. Vitamin D supports bone health. Dietary fiber promotes normal digestion and may help reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Here are some ways you can boost your children's intake of these nutrients.

  • Dish up more fruit for breakfast, snacks, and desserts. Add dark green, red, and orange vegetables to stews and soups. Add beans (black, kidney, pinto), peas, and lentils to casseroles and salads.
  • Serve more low-fat milk and milk products. If your child cannot digest much lactose, serve lactose-free products or fat-free milk and yogurt. (Lactose is the sugar in milk that may cause some people stomach pain and bloating when they drink milk or eat milk products.) Your child can also try soy or rice drinks enriched with calcium or vitamin D.
  • Be active with your child outside in the sunlight to improve vitamin D levels naturally. Serve fresh, frozen, or canned salmon, shrimp, and light tuna (not albacore). For young children, you may serve fish in small portions totaling up to 12 ounces each week.
  • Replace at least half of the refined grains (breads, pasta, rice) your child eats with whole-grain foods. Eat more bran. Check Nutrition Facts labels to find products high in dietary fiber. Look at the ingredients list to be sure that whole grains are one of the first items.
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Fall 2015 Issue: Volume 10 Number 3 Page 9