Did you know that August is “Kids Eat Right Month“?
This is a new initiative of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and spotlights healthy nutrition and active lifestyle choices for children and families.
Adults are children’s models for everything. They look to the “grown-ups” in their lives for how they should do things. Just because you aren’t a parent doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention to what you do. And grown-up’s actions – especially since you’re in a teaching role in their lives – speaks louder than your words. Modeling children’s healthy eating habits is part of this and this means you need to lead by example. Besides, it’s important for you to eat healthy if you plan to be around to watch these children grow up and grow out of your school, studio or gym and into adulthood.
Don’t be misled by anyone who wants you to believe that it is easy for children to change their eating habits as they get older. Instilling healthy habits from the start helps children to grow up with these good habits influencing their food choices and help them to stay the course even when offered less-than-healthy choices. So promoting the good eating habits that are probably stressed in your students’ homes is a great way for you to reinforce good habits to them.
Here is some great information for you and for you to share in your facility.
Healthy diets stabilize energy levels, sharpen minds and improve moods. When you combine eating well with regular physical activity, children are more apt to grow healthily, develop strong bones, maintain a healthy weight, stay active and alert and concentrate at school.
When children maintain their early-learned healthy eating habits into adulthood, they can also lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, heart disease, stroke, joint problems, breathing problems and obesity.
To create a healthier diet, include:
- Low-fat or nonfat dairy products
- Poultry without skin
- Lean cuts of meats
- Whole grain breads and cereals
- Healthy snacks such as fruit and veggies
It is also important to reduce the amount of sugar sweetened drinks and salt consumed.
If it’s easier for you to think of this in percentages, the healthy diet you’re aiming for should consist of:
- 33% bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy food
- 33% fruit and vegetables
- 15% milk and dairy foods
- 12% meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
- 8% foods and drink high in fat and/or sugar
So how can this work with all the hurried schedules and unhealthy distractions?
These are some suggestions:
Guide, don’t mandate. Barking orders doesn’t work. Neither does posting a strict diet without choices.
Leave bad choices (chips, soda, sugary juice, candy) at the grocery store. It’s easier to eliminate these items from your diet if they aren’t within reach.
Encourage children to eat slowly. Don’t take a second helping right away but wait a few minutes to see if it’s really hunger driving the request.
Encourage families to eat meals together as often as possible. Making sure mealtime is a pleasant time that the family enjoys instead of a time for scolding, arguing or reliving the day’s frustrations.
Involve the children. When they participate in choosing and planning meals, they will feel better about their diet changes. Helping to prepare meals will allow them to see all of the ingredients in what they are eating and take pride in preparing healthy food.
Plan snacks. It’s easier to fall into a continuous snacking pattern that could lead to overeating it you do not plan snack times. Planned snacks also allows children to have healthy snacks at specific times – as part of their nutritious diet – without spoiling appetites for meals and without depriving them of occasional chips or cookies that they may be offered a parties or other special events.
Discourage eating meals or snacks while watching TV. Try to eat only in designated areas of your home, such as the dining room or kitchen. Eating in front of the TV can make it difficult for children to determine feelings of fullness, encourage overeating and develop a habit of eating while watching.
Encourage your children to drink more water. Over consumption of sweetened drinks and sodas has been linked to increased rates of obesity in children
Don’t use food to punish or reward. Withholding food as a punishment may lead children to worry that they will not get enough food and they may want to eat whenever they get a chance. Foods used as rewards (as sweets often are) can lead children to believe that these foods are better or more valuable than other foods.
Be conscious of food that is consumed outside of home. Pack lunches and snacks to offer healthier eating choices. Choose healthier restaurants and healthier items at restaurants when eating out.
Pay attention to portion size and ingredients. Read food labels and limit foods with trans fat and sugar. Make sure appropriate portions are served. Labels usually provide guidelines for this.
Healthy snacks provide protein and fiber (or both) and makes you feel full.
- Bean dip with veggies
- Non-fat Greek Yogurt
- Low-fat string cheese stick and fresh fruit
- Granola or Cereal Bar
- 100-calorie Cookie Snack Packs
Encourage your facility parents to sign up for Recipes for Healthy Living e-newsletter.
Resource: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics