October 03, 2008
No matter what activities fill your child's day, whether it be building blocks, solving math equations or playing soccer, it is important to provide your child with the nutrition they will need to get them through the day.
Begin by starting the day off right with a nutritious breakfast. While mornings tend to be a hectic time for families, providing breakfast can help improve your child's attentiveness, concentration, creativity and problem-solving skills. In addition, kids who eat breakfast tend to take in more calcium, vitamin C, iron and fiber, and they are also more likely to attain a healthy weight. When it comes to lunch, instead of giving your child some money on the way out the door, hand them a home-packed lunch bag. T
he following guidelines can be incorporated for good health for your child throughout the day and make the menu fun and tasty!
- Make at least half your grains whole. Try whole wheat pasta or breads, low-fat popcorn or brown rice. Provide your child with 6 ounces everyday (1 ounce = 1 slice of bread).
- Vary your veggies. Color your plate with different kinds of great tasting veggies. Try broccoli, green beans, sweet potatoes, carrots, asparagus and sweet red peppers. Give your child 2 ½ cups everyday.
- Get sweet with nature's candy - fruit! Instead of juice, go for the whole fruit. Try strawberries, apples, bananas, watermelon, kiwis and oranges. Go for 1 ½ cups everyday.
- Get your calcium-rich foods. Calcium serves to build strong bones, so give your child 3 servings of low-fat milk, yogurt, string cheese and cottage cheese everyday (2 servings for ages 2-8).
- Go lean with protein. Choose lean meats, nuts, beans, and seeds. Children need 5 ounces everyday (1 ounce of nuts and 3 ounces of meat, fish or poultry fits into the palm of your hand).
- Choose healthy oils. We all need a small amount of oil, but get yours from fish, nuts or liquid oils such as olive or canola oil.
- Keep your kids hydrated with plenty of fluids - minus the sugar. Choose beverages that do not have sugar or other caloric sweeteners as one of the first ingredients. Try adding lemon to water or, if it is juice, make it 100% fruit juice. Limit juice to 1 cup per day.
Snacks can be beneficial for your child. When meals are separated by long periods of time such as school lunch at noon and then supper at 6 pm, after school would be a perfect time for a healthy snack. Keep in mind that snacks are only appropriate if your child is hungry; avoid making snacks a regular habit unless your child is very physically active. Use the following ideas to make snacks fun and nutritious!
- Try peanut butter and get creative! Top sliced apples, bananas or raisins with natural peanut butter.
- Toast a whole wheat waffle and top with low-fat yogurt and peaches.
- Toss some nuts and dried fruits together for an easy on-the-go snack.
- Dip carrots, celery sticks or sweet pepper slices in low-fat dip.
- Try baked tortilla chips with salsa.
- Freeze 100% fruit juice for a homemade frozen fruit bar.
- Sprinkle crunchy granola over low-fat yogurt and top with strawberries or blueberries.
- Try pita bread and hummus (chick pea dip).
- Combine some fruit with a low-fat string cheese.
In addition to eating nutritious foods, remember to keep active! Exercise is important in keeping your heart, bones and muscles healthy. So get your kids involved in an activity they enjoy - and don't be shy to join in! Take the family for a walk, bike or rollerblade; play soccer or basketball; or cool off with water sports like swimming or water polo. Aim for 30-60 minutes of physical activity everyday!
Sarah Brucks, Student Dietitian