You are what you eat. While only in your child’s imagination could this be possible, there is some truth behind this phrase. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that healthy eating can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, iron deficiency and dental cavities.
You may be wondering how to ensure that you and your family are eating well. Read on for guidance on making good nutrition choices for all.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommend that children two years and older maintain healthy nutrition by: (1) limiting calories from added sugars and saturated fats, (2) reducing their sodium intake, (3) eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products and proteins and (4) consuming healthy oils.
Estimated calorie needs for toddlers to early school-age children ranges from 1,000 to 2,000 calories per day. For middle-to older-school-age children and adolescents, the range is 1,400 to 3,200 calories per day. The HHS and USDA have devised the Healthy United States Style Eating Pattern, which provides guidance for choosing certain types and portions of foods that keep individuals within their recommended daily caloric and nutritional allowances. You can find more information about how you and your family can follow this eating pattern by visiting https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-3/.
Options for maintaining a healthy-eating pattern include: (1) Mediterranean, (2) vegetarian and (3) Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH).
According to the CDC, a Mediterranean eating pattern consists of: (1) mostly plant-based foods (fruit, vegetables, breads, cereals, beans, nuts and seeds), (2) foods prepared fresh without added fat, sugar or salt, (3) cooking with olive oil, (4) low-to-moderate consumption of dairy products (primarily cheese and yogurt), (5) fewer than four eggs consumed each week, (6) occasional red meat consumption, (7) seafood, and (8) small-to-moderate wine consumption for adults — mainly with meals.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that a Mediterranean eating pattern decreases the risk of developing diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides and heart disease.
The USDA and HHS have made recommendations for maintaining the healthy Mediterranean-style eating pattern. Those following a Mediterranean eating pattern should ensure that it contains: (1) iron, (2) vitamins and (3) calcium. Find more information by visiting https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-4/.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a vegetarian eating pattern consists of a plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, grains, seeds and nuts.
Additionally, you may choose to consume dairy products, eggs only, or refrain from eating red meat. The AHA states that vegetarian eating patterns generally have lower total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol that leads to a decreased risk for developing obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers.
The AHA recommends that vegetarians be especially mindful to ensue their eating pattern contains the essential nutrients: (1) protein, (2) iron, (3) vitamin B-12, (4) vitamin D, (5) calcium and (6) zinc.
The HHS and USDA devised the healthy vegetarian eating pattern. The HHS and USDA say that while this eating pattern can include dairy and eggs according to preference, a completely dairy-free eating pattern can be followed by consuming plant-based dairy derivatives or fortified soy beverages. You can find more information about how to follow the healthy vegetarian eating pattern on: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-5/.
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)
The DASH eating pattern aims to reduce blood pressure by limiting red meat, salt, sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.
This eating pattern is high in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, whole-grain products, fish, poultry and nuts.
Look for the Heart-Check mark next time you are grocery shopping. In an effort to assist families with choosing heart-healthy foods, the AHA has developed the Heart-Check certification to indicate that a particular food item meets AHA criteria for saturated fat, trans fat and sodium for individuals older than two years of age.
Making healthy nutrition choices for your family is critical to preventing disease. Use these guiding principles to determine the eating pattern that is a right fit for you and your family.
You are what you eat when it comes to shaping the healthy growth and development of your children. Talk to your healthcare provider before trying one of the diets presented here to weigh the risks and benefits. Discuss the need for possible nutritional supplements as well.
Laura Roettger, MSN, CPNP, is a faculty member in the College of Nursing at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.