10 Steps to healthier eating.
Don’t we all wish we could say that we eat healthfully all the time? Sure, we may choose healthier options at times, and we might eat fruits and vegetables occasionally. But most of us are not consistent.
It would be better to show our kids that we care about our bodies and health enough to stick to a well-balanced diet.
Here are ten ways you and your kids can eat more healthfully:
1 Make food fun! Mix it up a little — don’t serve the same thing all the time. Giving your kids a variety of healthy options exposes them to new tastes, textures and flavors. Providing a colorful assortment of foods each night will encourage your kids to try them. Your children will grow to love healthy foods.
One fun suggestion for your younger ones: Assign super powers to the veggies you serve, such as eating carrots for laser eyes to help see people better.
2 Offer healthy alternatives to favorite snacks. Snacks can be one of the biggest culprits, adding sugar and fat to a diet. Does your child love gummy fruit snacks? Exchange them for fresh fruits cut up into small pieces and placed in a small container to carry. Dessert is something we all love — substitute a fruit-and-yogurt parfait for ice cream. Swap a serving of potato chips for a serving of baked chips or baked vegetable chips. What child doesn’t love cookies? Try spreading a teaspoon of peanut butter on graham crackers, or dipping graham crackers in applesauce.
3 Cut out the sugar! We all know what going to the grocery store and letting our kids pick out a cereal is like. You can allow kids a sugary cereal, but grab a box of multigrain as well, and mix it in, so they eat less sugary cereal and get their whole grains, too.
Also, eliminate sugary drinks. Some parents may think that any drink that’s not soda is ok for kids. Most punch packets/ flavored beverages call for one cup of sugar. Kids don’t just drink one cup; therefore, they are getting a lot of sugar.
Some parents think their child needs juice, and count it as their fruit for the day. If your child loves fruit juice or other sweetened beverages, try putting 100-percent fruit juice in ice trays and adding those to water. Most juices have quite a bit of sugar in them even when labeled 100-percent fruit juice. Having your kids eat fruit instead would help them feel full and take in one of their fruits for the day. Encouraging them to drink more water will help them be healthier.
Give them a job — such as stirring or adding ingredients — which will make them feel useful and show them what they can make with healthy foods.
Also have your kids choose the veggies or side dish, along with the seasonings, and then let them help you prepare the dish, as much as possible. Allow kids to make their own pizzas. Put bowls out with cheese, spinach, bell peppers, olives and pepperoni, and ask your kids to make their pizza using at least three different items.
5 Offer vegetables every night. Don’t ever let your kids see you without vegetables on your plate, and don’t try to force vegetables on them that they consider “weird,” such as Brussels sprouts or eggplant. Normal vegetables for children include corn, carrots, broccoli, green beans, lettuce and tomatoes. You should also get them to try cauliflower, squash, zucchini, mushrooms and asparagus. When you offer kids weird veggies, ask them to eat only one bite.
As long as they eat one bite of each vegetable on the plate, they are done, but if you offer that same vegetable on another night they still have to take one bite. Slowly you will see their taste buds change, and they may start to like it. Don’t ever threaten to make them eat their vegetables.
6 Control portion sizes. Look at portion sizes as a portion of the plate. Splitting your child’s plate in half and then taking one of those halves and splitting it in half again is a great way to start. Fill one half of the plate with vegetables, which could be one vegetable or multiple vegetables or maybe even a salad. Then in the other half of the plate you have two halves or two quarters of the plate. In one quarter will be the protein portion of your meal, such as chicken, steak, turkey or pork. In the other quarter of the plate you will place the starches, such as pasta, rice, bread or potatoes.
Potatoes are rather starchy and happen to contain a lot of sugar, so try not to always count them as the vegetable.
7 Make sure you use the correct plate size.Your child should use a small plate, and you can use larger plates (although if you are looking to lose weight as an adult, using a child’s plate would help decrease portion sizes). If your kids ask for seconds, they may have seconds of vegetables, not proteins or starches. Kids who use adult-sized plates will end up with larger portions and more calories.
8 Cook and eat at home more often. Everyone loves easy meals, but boxed and processed meals are expensive and loaded with hidden, unhealthy ingredients. Trying to eat homemade foods is the best way to increase the healthy factor of your diet. Make your own hamburger patties instead of buying premade, frozen patties. Making your own lasagna instead of using boxed lasagna allows you to control the ingredients and go healthier. You can add vegetables to layers of your lasagna, and puree them for the sauce.
9 Bring back the sit-down family dinner.Sitting down to eat as a family will also encourage the family to discuss their day, which has been shown to decrease the amount that they eat.
10 Be a role model. Kids will likely eat healthfully if their parents do, so show them you can do it. Even if you don’t like vegetables or just certain vegetables, take one bite, as you’re asking them to do. If you love soda every morning, drink a bottle of water instead so your kids will see your healthy swap. Cook and eat with your kids to help teach healthy eating for your children’s and their children’s sake.
Christie Ramirez, MSN, RN, CPNP-PC, is a PNP working in primary care for a school-based clinic in Texas.