When it comes to feeding your kids, it can seem like there are a lot of rules to follow. Kids need nutrients to grow strong and healthy, but you also have to limit sweets, fatty foods, sugar laden drinks and watch portion sizes so they don’t develop problems with their weight or health.
The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate, with one out of three kids now considered overweight or obese. U.S. nutrition officials are trying to halt that trend.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created dietary guidelines to provide practical advice on how to give kids a healthy, balanced diet. The guidelines suggest that kids eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains than in the past and that they get 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day.
A WELL-BALANCED DIET
The recommendations at www.choosemyplate.gov are tailored for kids based on age, gender and exercise habits. Serving sizes are guidelines and, on some days, kids may eat more or less of a certain food group. That’s OK. Different foods have different mixes of nutrients, so it’s important to serve a variety of foods regularly.
In general your child should get four or more servings of whole grains, four to six servings of vegetables and fruits, three servings of milk and two servings of lean protein.
In addition, fats and oils are essential nutrients to maintain body function but should be used sparingly. Fats shouldn’t be restricted in kids under age 2. Their developing brains and other organs need a certain amount of fat for proper development. Refer to Tip #NF816, “Serving Size Savvy” for a more complete list of serving sizes by age.
We all have things we like and things we dislike and kids are no different. Ask your child to try one bite of something you are eating if he hasn’t tried it before. Be patient and persistent; it may take up to 10 tries before a child will accept a new food.
Respect his preferences - don’t insist that your child eat all of his lima beans if you know he genuinely dislikes them.
Toddlers tend to be picky eaters. Don’t worry — this is a normal. Using bribes or punishment to get your child to eat his vegetables will just teach your child to manipulate you, so don’t fight about food.
Remember, your child’s food intake will widely vary. Evaluate your child’s diet by the amount and kinds of foods he eats over the course of the week and not just by what he consumes in one day.
If you are concerned that your child is missing certain vitamins and nutrients in his diet, talk to your pediatrician about a vitamin supplement.
Invite your children to become involved in grocery shopping and meal preparation. Try to plan meals that include at least one food they like.
Teach them to read and understand nutrition labels, and how to evaluate and follow recipes. Not only will they learn about good nutrition, but also how to cook! Also, set an example: if you eat healthfully, your children will follow your lead.
TIPS FOR TERRIFIC MEALS
ENCOURAGE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Fitness in childhood lays the foundation for a healthy life. In addition to helping prevent heart disease, exercise helps to reduce stress, which is a big factor in emotional health.
One of the best ways to get kids to be more active is to limit the amount of time spent in sedentary activities, especially watching TV or playing video games.
Helping children lead healthy lifestyles begins with parents who lead by example. Encourage your child to exercise for 60 minutes a day.
Even better, make exercise a family activity. You’ll improve your entire family’s health and strengthen your family ties. Plan family time around physical activities like going for hikes or bike rides together.
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