Tag Archives: nutrition

Heart-Healthy Eating for Young Children

The American Heart Association recently published a promotional piece in Good Housekeeping (June 2010), supporting the magazine’s  “Cook Your Heart Out” campaign, which underscores heart-healthy eating even by those with ” The Littlest Hearts.” We couldn’t agree more!  Their “8 Ways to Help Children Eat Better” paraphrased here are ideas parents of young children can consider doing:

1.         Acting as a good role model.

(Childsafetyblog.org suggests we must always try to do this!) So if you eat unhealthy snacks in front of your child, why should your child feel he or she shouldn’t do the same?  Eat nutritious snacks and your child will be more apt to follow suit!

2.         Get children involved.

Ask your children to do simple, low-risk tasks in the kitchen (not around the stove!), such as rinsing veggies before you cook them or setting the table.  Gradually increase their responsibilities as they grow.

3.         Cook smart and healthfully!

Show your children how their favorite dishes can be prepared in a healthful way… If you have any doubts about cooking or proper measurements or portion sizes, check the American Heart Association Cookbook to learn how to trim the fat and other empty calories. Incorporate more vegetables and fruits in your meals. Bake, broil, and steam–instead of frying!

4.         Set food boundaries but give children choices too!

You determine the time and place meals and snacks will be served. Let kids know what will be served.  Give them a few options within the menu.  Show them what an acceptable portion size is when they are young… that will help cut down on “eyes that are bigger than stomachs!”

5.         Bring your entire family to the table!

The family that eats together… you know the drill–well, it’s true! Make the family table a happy, healthy, and memorable place to be together.

6.         Read food labels… Make it a game!

Just understanding food labels can be quite a chore. The American Heart Association suggests you make it a game.  I can honestly say childsafetyblog has difficulty spelling “polyunsaturated” and “monosodium glutamate”…

7.         Outreach–Don’t Just Talk About it–Do it!

It’s important that you contact your children’s school to learn what they are eating while in school–Request healthy food options.  Also let daycare caregivers know what you would like your child to eat.  If they don’t have it, you provide it!

8.         Be upbeat!

Who likes to hear what we aren’t permitted to do?  Most kids want to know what they can do to look, feel, and be their best.  Praise them when they do a good job with words and healthful snacks.

For additional information about heart health in children, please visit:  www.heart.org/healtheirkids

With thanks and credit to the American Heart Association for all they do to keep us healthy and to Good Housekeeping for helping promote the campaign for healthy hearts in children!

What We Feed Our Kids!

I hate to say this to parents, but, for the most part, WE are the “last location” before most food is consumed by our kids (especially when we are talking about babies and toddlers). We are the ones who make sure what they eat is safe and healthful. Either we have chosen their food in the food store, brought it home and prepared it for them ourselves, or our children have consumed it at someone else’s home in their kitchen or while sitting at a table in a fast food, or other restaurant, with us, a babysitter, or family member.

As our kids grow older, they will consume more food at school and outside the home. But, whatever the case, their eating patterns are established usually by us, and early in life. And while we may not have to worry about what they eat at every single meal, perhaps we should seriously consider what they are eating in total, and how it is building their bodies so they can experience a healthier and safer tomorrow.

One question we need to ask ourselves is: Are we buying nutritious foods for our children to eat or are we giving in to food choices that are not as healthy but are easy to fix and are pre-prepared (food that might contain more preservatives and fat), things that save us time?

Looking at the new food pyramid can give us some safe guidelines how to feed our little ones. Is the new food pyramid even in our vocabulary? If not, there are several places we can find it, such as the USDA’s website www.MyPyramid.gov

MyPyramid.gov has food safety and preparation advice for moms-to-be as well as moms of babies and toddlers. There is an interactive page for parents of preschoolers where you can fill in the age of your child and it will give you a sample recommended food pyramid listing the amounts of grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and meat and beans recommended, plus some safe snacking ideas and smart beverage choices for them. (You can print and paste it on the refrigerator as a reminder.) Clicking on “Inside the Pyramid” will tell you more about why certain food groups for your child are so important!

As parents, we worry about whether our children are getting what they need nutritionally to build strong, healthy bodies, in the way of vitamins and minerals–especially with processed food–or if there is any nutritional value in the food they eat at all! If you are considering vitamin supplements for your child, begin by checking with your family doctor first to make sure you are giving your child the right vitamin in the correct amount or dosage. Vince Iannelli, MD, of About.com’s Pediatrics says that it is “a much better practice to provide these nutrients to your child through the foods they eat” by choosing foods rich in:

    • fiber content
    • protein
    • iron
    • calcium
    • Vitamin C
    • potassium
Babies and toddlers require a variety of foods to achieve a balanced diet. It’s important to make sure that their diets are as balanced as older children’s diets. They may gravitate to certain foods they like, but a variety of foods breaks the monotony and encourages healthful eating in the long run.