Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Children and Nutrition

As parents I think that what our children eat is always a major concern.  I know that it is for us.  I have two toddlers.  My son can be picky at times and my daughter will pretty much eat anything.  I definitely don't have it all figured out as far as nutrition goes, but these things have really helped us. 

One of the cool things about majoring in Early Childhood Education is that there is a big focus on nutrition, since you have to prepare meals in many childcare facilities.  I have actually learned a TON about what kids should eat at certain ages so I thought I would share.  Many times we are overwhelmed by what we should feed our kids, how much etc...these guidelines make things VERY simple and you may be surprised (as I was) that your child is eating just what they need to eat.  You can print out guidelines for ages 1-12 here

It is also important to remember that children like simple but they also enjoy variety.  My son will be nuts for strawberries for a week and then refuse them the next.  Try them in another couple days or a week.  Here is an example of lunch:

1/2 slice bread with peanut butter
Yogurt cup
1/2 cup grapes
1/2 cup steamed carrots (or canned with low sodium)

Tips for Healthy Eating Habits

Don't be afraid to offer your child something you think they won't like.  It is important not to give off negative vibes about certain foods, especially veggies.  Your kids will always surprise you.

Start a small garden.  Children need to learn where food comes from and are more apt to try things they had a hand in making.  Even if its just a couple things in pots, it makes a positive impact.

Take a break from junk.  It is difficult to tell a toddler "no cookies" when they know the jar is sitting on the counter.  I keep all unhealthy foods out of reach and out of sight.  Try offering only healthy snack food options.  For example instead of saying "What snack would you like?", ask "Would you like grapes or a cheese stick for snack".

Set a good example.  Kids are the best imitators and it is likely they are imitating you.  I have been working on sitting with my kids for lunch instead of running around cleaning.  I try to prepare a similar lunch to theirs'.  I might add something healthy like a salad that they do not have on their plate.  They will almost always ask for a bite of mine.

If all else fails...hide veggies in your food.  There are several really great cookbooks on this topic.  Try adding shredded carrots and zucchini in sauces, they will never know!  If you look up "Picky eater" on Amazon books, you will get a ton of great book options (then just go pick one up at the library).  The Turkey Bolognese Rollover Dinner I posted a while ago is a great way to get veggies and lean meat in your child's diet.  If you check out the link for the actual recipe you will see how to take the leftovers to make a flavorful, veggie-packed chili.

Anyways, I hope some of this helps and make sure to print out the guidelines at the link and keep on your fridge to reference.  Like I said, I am not claiming to be a pro, but I can at least offer a "real mom" perspective :)

Have a great, healthy day!

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