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A nutrition and wellness consultant leads parents through a fun and informative four-week journey on how to teach toddlers about making healthy food choices.
With obesity on the rise in America, it is more important now than ever for parents to make wise and healthy decisions for their children. In her guidebook Fit Happens with Nutrition!, certified nutrition and wellness consultant Stephanie Hilton Sewell guides both seasoned and novice parents through a four-week learning ...
A nutrition and wellness consultant leads parents through a fun and informative four-week journey on how to teach toddlers about making healthy food choices.
With obesity on the rise in America, it is more important now than ever for parents to make wise and healthy decisions for their children. In her guidebook Fit Happens with Nutrition!, certified nutrition and wellness consultant Stephanie Hilton Sewell guides both seasoned and novice parents through a four-week learning process that teaches how to incorporate good nutritional habits while transitioning toddlers from baby food to table food.
As the mother of a toddler herself, Sewell knows all too well that habits children are exposed to during their first five years can set the stage for the rest of their lives. Through her extensive research on diet and nutrition for toddlers, Sewell leads parents on a fun, in-formative journey that teaches how to successfully introduce little ones to nutritious foods through colors of the rainbow, various shapes, different textures and assorted tastes.
It is never too early to build a foundation for a lifetime of healthy choices. In Fit Happens with Nutrition! Sewell offers valuable lessons for every parent who is truly committed to providing their children with the tools to make healthy eating choices for the rest of their lives.
Welcome to Week 1! Colors are all around your little one, and each day brings those colors into clearer focus. That's lemon yellow, mud-pie brown, and every color in between. Each day of this week will be devoted to a specific color and examples you will easily find around the house, in your own pantry, or along one of the aisles in your favorite grocery store.
Day 1: Make This a Red-Color Day!
Let's kick things off with a little excitement! Introducing your little one to healthy, nutritious food is an important milestone you can achieve on a daily basis. Today, we'll set the tone with the color red and encourage eating a few delicious fruits and vegetables: juicy strawberries and red grapes, crisp red onions, sweet red beets and pomegranates, garden-fresh tomatoes, red-skin potatoes, and mouth-watering watermelon.
These wonderful reds are packed with antioxidants, the "security guards" that keep our cells from getting damaged by disease-causing bacteria. In today's delicious red harvest, the antioxidants can help the body fight off several forms of cancer and heart disease.
Begin by showing your child the actual fruit or vegetable. Hold it in your hand, and then let your child hold it. Allow your child to explore its size and shape. This will hold your child's attention while you work at the kitchen counter to slice a piece for tasting.
Next, place the whole fruit or vegetable next to the sliced pieces and begin your tasting time. Use descriptions while you share the experience with your child: Look at the juicy red strawberry! The slices look like little red hearts. Don't they taste sweet?
It's very important that your child sees you enjoying the tasting experience. Children are natural mimics, and during the toddler and preschool years, they imitate the actions of their siblings, their peers, and the adults who are closest to them. For fruits and vegetables you haven't tasted before or you feel a little unsure about trying, this is a great time to try something new and share a wonderful experience with your child.
Healthy Tip: Reinforce the tasting time by taking a trip to the library and finding books about fruits and vegetables, or books that feature fruits and vegetables as characters.
Day 2: Let's Sing the Blues, Baby!
Any chance to share a positive experience with your child is something worth singing about, so let's sing the blues ... more like the blues and the purples, to be exact!
Introduce your child to a handful of fresh blueberries, ripe purple plums, delicious raspberries and blackberries, purple grapes and raisins, eggplant, and figs (the real thing). Studies have shown that these dark blue and purple fruits and vegetables also contain antioxidants. As we discussed on Red-Color Day, the little security guards in these fruits and vegetables also protect our cells from damage, help the brain's memory center to stay healthy, and protect against cancer and heart disease.
For today's tasting time, most of these fruits are great for little hands to hold. They also make excellent counting tools! Describe the fruit and encourage your child to sample it at the same time: Let's eat these three yummy little blueberries! One yummy blueberry, two yummy blueberries, and three yummy blueberries are all gone. Time for some more!
Don't forget to show your child how much you are enjoying this experience. Those little eyes are watching your every move, so keep the nutritious beat moving and sing the blues loud and clear!
Healthy Tip: Reinforce today's tasting time by selecting a blue or purple fruit or vegetable and using it in a snack recipe, as a mealtime side item, or in a dessert.
Day 3: Let's Go Green!
Green is more than a buzzword—it's a way of life, and it's one of the best ways to eat! Gorgeous green fruits and vegetables are easy to spot and just as easy to include in meals and snacks. Green apples, green grapes, broccoli, and cool honeydew melon are all delicious and ready to eat right after being washed. Green beans and leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and turnip, mustard, and collard greens, add texture and flavor to any meal.
Many green fruits and vegetables contain lutein, which helps promote eye health, and folate, a B vitamin that helps to prevent birth defects. Moms-to-be shouldn't miss out on any of this green goodness!
Today's tasting time can include three bowls of any green fruit or vegetable you'd like to introduce your child to: First, we'll taste the sliced green grapes. Now, let's taste the crunchy green bell pepper slices. And this bowl of sweet green apple slices? We can dip them in the yummy yogurt!
Healthy Tip: Reinforce today's tasting time by visiting the grocery store or a farmer's market and letting your child pick out all of the green fruits and vegetables.
Day 4: Life's an Orange ... It's So A-Peeling!
Every day, your toddler is learning so much about the world and absorbing it all in the most amazing way. Young children love to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell their way around. The whole world might as well be orange—it's all so a-peeling!
Among orange fruits and vegetables, oranges top the list and are joined by cantaloupes, papayas, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins. Citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, and mandarins are great sources of vitamin C, which helps little bodies (and big ones, too!) maintain strong immune systems. Yams, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and carrots contain beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A promotes eye health and strong mucous membranes. It also plays a role in keeping cancer, heart disease, and high cholesterol at bay. Sound familiar?
Take a different turn with this tasting time and explore the skins of each orange fruit or vegetable: The juicy orange has a peel that protects the fruit inside. See how you can pull the slices apart? The sweet potato has a thin skin that gets flaky when we bake it in the oven. See how it looks mushy and orange inside?
Healthy Tip: Reinforce today's tasting time by lining up an orange, a sweet potato, a carrot, and a pumpkin and then testing how they roll down a ramp made from your cutting board.
Day 5: Hello, Yellow!
Like sunshine on a summer day, yellow fruits and vegetables make the body smile all over! They are the brightest picks for the dinner plate and pack a can't-miss dose of nutrients for growing bodies.
Lemons, yellow peppers, bananas, peaches, mangoes, yellow squash, zucchini, and sweet corn are all fruits and vegetables that don't require a lot of preparation before they become delicious snacks or mealtime sides. Similar to the a-peeling orange group, these yellow selections also pack in vitamins A and C for a one-two punch against eye diseases, heart disease, and reducing the risk of birth defects.
Ditch the mellow approach to yellow tasting time and add a blindfold: Show me the yellow lemon and then show me the yellow corn. Now that I can't see, feed me the yellow lemon. Wow! That yellow lemon is so sour!
Healthy Tip: Reinforce today's tasting time by comparing the yellow corn to the yellow squash, or a yellow lemon to a mango.
Day 6: Bringing It All Together
A healthy meal includes at least three different colors of foods on the plate. This week, you've shared a whole rainbow of nutritious choices with your child; and hopefully, you've also expanded your own ideas toward incorporating more of these delicious options into every meal and snack.
Parent and child assignment: Find three colors from this week and put them all together for one meal.
Example 1: Create a fruit salad including mandarin orange slices, juicy red strawberries, and a few fresh blueberries.
Example 2: Make sure dinner includes a leafy green spinach salad, an entrée of orange or lemon chicken, and a side of red-skin potatoes.
Items Needed ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________
Day 7: Sharing Is Caring Share what you have learned with your family and friends.
It's time for you and your child to celebrate! You've made it through a whole week of rainbow eating! The lessons you've learned and shared by tasting a variety of fruits and vegetables will be the foundation for a lifetime of healthy choices. Take the next step with the fruits and vegetables you and your child have tasted this week and use them in other recipes or combine them in creative snacks. You get extra credit for a smoothie that includes juicy red strawberries, delicious yellow pineapple chunks, and a splash of orange juice!
Today, take the opportunity to share this week's lessons with a loved one. Help your child to look through newspapers or magazines to find their favorite fruits and vegetables from this week. Use what you both find to create a collage of your favorite fruits and vegetables and help them explain it to aunts, a cousin, a grandparent, or a family friend.
Then let your child select their favorite fruit or vegetable in the collage as a snack time treat. Don't be surprised if they can't choose just one—that just means you've done an excellent job!
Activity for Today ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________
Welcome to Week 2! I would like to thank you and your little one for taking the next great big step on our nutritious journey! This week is shaping up to be loaded with variety: a special treat for little minds that are always thinking!
Just for a moment, I'd like you to sit down on the floor and look around the room. Did the whole world suddenly get a whole lot bigger? That's your child's current view of the world. It's easy to forget that when you're holding small fingers or picking up your little sweetie for a squirmy hug. All week long, we're going to work on easy ways to help your little one embrace a variety of shapes. We're going to focus on the big, the little, the round, the square, and the yummy zig-zags and odd shapes of healthy eating!
Day 8: Round
Aside from colors, shapes are among the first lessons we teach our children. Why not take the lesson into the kitchen and right onto their plates?
Use any mealtime (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) to point out the shapes that are being prepared. When you open the can of "round green peas," let your little one help you pour them into the pan. On your cutting board, show your child the sliced carrots that are "orange circles." For a double dose of round, cut a circular hole in an orange, and then plug the hole. Show your child the "round orange," let her remove the "little circle." Then help her squeeze out the juice for a sip from her "round orange cup."
Toddler Tip: One of the easiest round shapes our little ones recognize is a Cheerio. This cereal is an excellent source of whole grains and the perfect size for little fingers that are just learning to pick things up without assistance. A good way to reinforce their shape is to hold one between your thumb and index finger and then show your child how to roll the Cheerio like a wheel. Add a little "vroom-vroom" sound effect and pop it in your mouth! You can easily create a game with your child or just hold their attention with your sound effects.
Day 9: Square
Today, it's so hip to be square! Did you know that the origin of the term "square meal" dates back to the 1600s? Over time, it has come to refer to a healthy, balanced meal—exactly what you want for your child!
Square menu ideas aren't hard to find, especially when we begin with breakfast. Try a square waffle and help your little one count the squares! Remember not to drown the waffle with calorie-laden syrup. Play a game of four-square and let your child pick any four squares to fill with syrup. If you're serving toast, try cutting the big square into four little squares, making it a little easier for little fingers to handle.
Dare to be square!
Toddler Tip: At lunch or snack time, serve cheese cubes with a light ranch dip, a few carrot and celery sticks, and tasty wheat or graham crackers. At dinner, consider cutting your child's meat into orderly squares and then getting them to count each bite. It's never too early to work in a little counting practice!
Day 10: Big and Little
It's a BIG deal to focus on the little details of healthy eating! Children learn and absorb more information about their world between birth and five years of age than at any other point in their lives. An important part of their learning begins when they start comparing shapes and sizes, especially opposites like big and little.
When you're out and about, take every opportunity to point out the differences in sizes. At the grocery store, compare the big head of lettuce to the little artichoke. If you eat lunch in a restaurant, talk about your own big glass of water and your child's small cup of water.
Toddler Tip: At mealtime or snack time, show the difference between eating a big bite and a little bite, then let your child point out some big and little examples on their own plate. You'll be amazed by the big impact of so many little lessons!
Day 11: Little and Big
Yes, we're revisiting little and big, but this time we're adding a twist: let's talk about little and big portion sizes!
It's no secret that the amount of food we consume in the United States has definitely grown over the past twenty years. The staggering rates of obesity across all age groups are evidence of this fact. The average restaurant entrée is served in an amount that can adequately feed two diners or fill one diner, with enough left over to take home. (Check out the appendix for more information about Nutrition Facts labeling and understanding serving sizes.)
I want you to try this: look at your open hand, make a fist, and then hold it. Your fist is about the size of your own stomach. The same goes for your own child's little fist. Their fist is about the same size as their stomach. Now think of what has to happen to get a big amount of food into such a little space! Now is the perfect time to pay attention to portion sizes and serving sizes whenever you read food labels.
Toddler Tip: At today's snack time, set out a correct serving size of potato chips and a large serving. Talk about how the little serving is just right to fill up a little tummy, and how a big serving looks yummy, but will get a little tummy too full and make it hurt. Be sure to explain that the same thing can happen to grown-up tummies, too.
Day 12: Odd Shapes
Just what is an odd-shaped food? To your child, that could be any dish that doesn't fit any of the standard shapes but is still a nutritious option that shouldn't be missed. Every parent who takes on Day 12 has to be committed to making this a fun day of learning and possibly conquering some foods he or she has personally avoided.
Children look up to their parents and watch closely for their reactions to every situation. When your little one stubs their toe, they will run to you for comfort, but they also are looking for your reaction. If you're calm and soothing about the pain of that toe, they will know everything will be alright. The same goes for that plate of squiggly spaghetti and tomato sauce, good sources of grains and lycopenes, respectively. If you take a bite of a new food and explain how good it is, your child will be more likely to at least give the dish a try. Here are some tips on tackling oddly shaped vegetables:
Asparagus: This spear-shaped vegetable (which also looks like a little tree) is a good source of iron, magnesium, and zinc. It works well when served with a dip, rather than alone or sliced.
Beets: The root and leaves are both delicious additions to any meal. The red root, rich in fiber and folates, can be boiled and sliced into rounds, then cut into half-moons or "smiles" for your little one to gobble up.
Brussels Sprouts: This vegetable features protein content in addition to being a source of vitamins A and C. Though this vegetable may appear bite-sized to an adult, keep in mind that a little mouth may be overstuffed by the attempt! For best results, steam these sprouts, then slice two or three for easy chewing.
Toddler Tip: Avoid scary food descriptions and stick with focusing on how the dish tastes and how it will help your child grow big and strong. Also, keep your child's plate simple at mealtime. If an entrée features a thick gravy or sauce, try placing a small amount in a side dish or bowl and allow your child to dip his or her meat or vegetables, rather than watch them refuse to eat anything at all.
Excerpted from Fit Happens with Nutrition! by Stephanie Hilton Sewell Copyright © 2011 by Stephanie Hilton Sewell. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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