As we live our modern lives that tend to be sedentary and fast paced, our childrens nutrition has suffered. We used to make meals with our family three times a day as a routine. Now we often reach for what is quick and tasty, satisfying our hunger while compromising our own nutrition. Our children as a result have been gaining weight. Early onset Type 2 Diabetes, Fatty Liver Disease, Hypertension and other obesity complications are now commonplace, and unfortunately, lower the life expectancy of our kids by many years.
As a pediatrician, I counsel families on a daily basis to go back to the meal sharing and preparing they were raised on. I have a few basic recommendations, that when followed, can greatly improve pediatric nutrition and allow children to grow healthy and strong while avoiding too much weight gain.
I encourage families to prepare meals in their head first then plan and cook them. Try to plan some weekly meals the kids like and the rest based on what you have available to you. Include vegetables into every meal. We all should be taking between 5 to 9 servings of fruits and veggies a day. This single habit can improve your nutrition greatly. When kids refuse the veggies you have included in the meals don’t worry or force them to eat them, just model eating them yourselves and sooner or later they will come around. Hidden veggies sautéed and pureed also count as veggies and often can be cooked into meals without the kids noticing.
You do not need to cook every meal for your kids based on what they want, please do not even ask what they want for dinner. If they refuse your food that you have chosen to cook its ok to let them go to bed hungry. Ultimately, when they are hungry enough they will choose to eat what they are given. Human kids have not ever been known to starve themselves on purpose. Hunger will always win if food is available.
Try to make most snacks whole fruits, this will help to get in the 5-9 servings a day. Frozen fruits are just as nutritious as fresh, canned not so much as they are usually prepared into a juice liquid. Fruit snacks are not real fruit.
Avoid all sugary beverages; this includes fruit juice or other juices. Try to serve only water and 3 milk servings in a cup daily for liquid needs. Do not add sugar to the milk in the form of syrup or powder.
We all know the foods that are not healthy for us, try to leave these at the store rather than taking them home. Kids don’t need access to snack foods all day, if there are no chips to snack on they will find something else with more nutrition for a snack.
Try to avoid fast foods that have drive through attached. There are many chemical additives to these foods that are not healthy for us or for our kids. Read the ingredients to your favorites on the web, if you come across something you can’t pronounce it is a sign your body has no need for it.
When you talk about nutrition with your kids focus on making their bodies grow strong and healthy rather than commenting on their weight specifically.
I hope you have enjoyed these nutritional tips and can work on trying some out at your home this summer!
Dr. Jody Navitsky M.D.
StayWell Health Center
Brought to you by the StayWell Health Center Team