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Nutrition BitesHealthy Eating Tips and Tricks for Kids
By Deb Kennedy
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Dr. Deb Kennedy
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGENERAL INFORMATION
Most parents will admit that they have a dif cult time feeding their child a healthy diet. Many insist that their child will not eat healthy food and that their child prefers a small variety of favorite items which are mostly processed; such as hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and chicken nuggets; but unfortunately the list includes little to no whole grains, fish, and vegetables.
This section provides insight into why you may be having a hard time getting your child to eat a healthy diet and important practical tips, advice, and information to make it easier. It is possible for children to eat a healthy diet and if you know the facts and what works, you will have an easier time at the supermarket, in the kitchen, at snack time, and during meals.
Don't Just Feed Your Child, Nourish Them Too
Every time you hear these words "I'm hungry, what's there to eat?" from your child you have two choices. You can quiet them with the most convenient option, which is usually a processed and unhealthy food choice, or you can provide food that will supply the nutrients that they need to grow and be healthy. Both will satisfy their hunger, but only one will give them what they need.
Each time you reach for a snack for your child or prepare a meal for them, ask yourself if the ingredients promote health. Make sure that the majority of the time they do. It's OK to have treats now and again but the foundation of your diet and your child's diet needs to be based upon healthy choices, or else all of you will pay the price little by little, in some manner; usually in the form of undesirable overall health impacts.
Choose Health, Most Of The Time
Your child's health is about choices; both the small and big decisions that you make as a parent every day. Do you provide apples for a snack or a candy bar? Do you insist that your child eats their vegetables before they get dessert? Do you make them run outside and play every day after school?
Each choice, no matter how tiny, adds up. At the end of the day, week, month, and year, your child is either on a path towards optimal health and growth, or if the majority of nutrition related choices made by them or for them are unhealthy ones, then your child is on a path moving towards disease and the possibility that they won't reach their full health potential. Diets which are high in sugar, fat and salt lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease (which can begin in childhood) and certain cancers.
It's Never Too Late Or Too Early To Start
Research is discovering that it is never too early to influence your child's eating habits. Growing babies get accustomed to the different tastes of food that their moms eat while pregnant and breastfeeding. Moms who ate more vegetables during pregnancy and breast feeding had children that liked the taste of 'veggies' better than children with less exposure at an early age.
Don't worry if your child is past the bottle and breast feeding stage. It is also never too late to start introducing new healthy choices. It will be more dif cult the older your child is, but as long as you are consistent and continue to offer vegetables, whole grains, fish, fruit and other healthy food, they will get accustomed to the new taste. It may take up to a dozen attempts but keep at it. A good motto to live by is: They don't have to love it; they just need to eat it.
Children Have Trouble Self Regulating On A Processed Diet
For most of our time on this earth, we ate when we were hungry and stopped when we were full. If we ate more one day we cut back during the next day or two. This 'self regulation' is no longer the case in today's world where the unhealthy food is cheap, tasty and easy to get. The more processed food (food out of a can, pouch, or box) that is in your child's diet, the harder it will be for them to regulate their intake. The artificially high amount of sugar, salt, and fat in the processed foods will trick their brains into wanting more and more of it. A diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, plus a limited amount of processed food, will prevent this from happening.
As an example, when rats are fed rat chow, they easily regulate their intake and remain at a healthy weight. If they are put on a 'human junk food cafeteria diet' of candy, cookies, and chips, they eat until they are morbidly obese and die at an early age. Many humans are essentially doing the same thing. Recent research suggests that this generation of children is not expected to live as long as the generation before. This is mostly due to the diet and exercise choices that children are being offered and the decisions they are making every day.
Junk In, Disease Out
A child born today has a one in three chance of becoming overweight during childhood and if that child has one or two overweight parents their risk increases drastically. A Caucasian child also has the same one in three chance of developing diabetes and this increases to a one in two chance if the child is Hispanic or African American. The reason for this is simple to identify but dif cult to change; children are taking in too many unhealthy calories and exercising too little to burn them off.
Most children do not eat anywhere close to the amount of fruits, vegetables and dairy recommended by experts that they need to give them a fighting chance to grow up healthy and strong. The consequences of this are compounded by the fact that most children also spend too much time engaged in sedentary behaviors like watching TV, or using computers, hand held devices and video games. (Go to www.buildhealthykids.com for exact amounts.) On average, children eat 40% of their calories from junk food or food that is considered 'empty calories' in the form of solid fat and added sugars. Soda drinks, fruit drinks, cookies, cakes, donuts, pies, and pizza top the list of such 'empty calorie' culprits.
Nourishment Isn't Only About Food
Children are resourceful and will seek comfort wherever they can. The last thing that comes to mind when our child is screaming for food, or they are eating too much, is that they may actually be asking for nourishment in an entirely different form; love and attention!
Sometimes, in today's world with hectic schedules, we have limited time to spend with our children. Just as adults turn to food for comfort, so do our kids. The next time your child wants to continue eating after eating a large meal or snack you may want to consider going for a walk together, reading a book, or playing a game. That may be all that is needed.
You Can't Make Up For It Later
Kids need to eat enough healthy food (food that provides the nutrients that they require) to reach their full health potential when they are actually growing. They cannot make up for a lack of good nutrition later in life.
In order to get everything they need and not go over their daily calorie requirement, children are left with very few extra calories. The following are the amount of calories left over after children eat the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables, dairy, oils, meat, and grain each day:
These calories can be spent in several ways:
Eating a treat/junk food like cookies, chips, candy for example
Drinking soda or juice cocktails
The additional calories in a product from added sugar or fat; drinking whole milk instead of low fat milk for example.
Kids are growing up with little to no concept of where food comes from. They think it comes from the grocery store, not farms and fields. Get your child back to basics and show them where food comes from. Try growing an avocado or bean plant from seed on your windowsill or in your garden. If you have the land, plant a few vegetables, or if not, then consider joining a community garden.
They Do What You Do
There are hundreds of subtle messages and lessons that you teach your child on a daily basis when it comes to eating and exercising. Your child is watching to see if you exercise, if you like it, if you don't like it but do it anyway, or if you mainly just sit on the couch. They watch how you interact with food, what you eat, how much you eat, how you select food from the store, how you prepare it and serve it. After all this observation, they imitate you. It is called mirroring, and science has revealed that this technique is one of the most effective tools that parents have at their disposal to bring up healthy, active eaters.
Chapter TwoIN THEIR BODIES
Children's bodies need more nutrients per pound than adults because they are growing. Children are born 'unfinished'. Their brains must grow in complexity as new connections continue to be made everyday; their immune systems, once borrowed from their mothers, now must develop on their own; their bones grow and lengthen, and their growth plates fuse.
In order for children to reach their full health potential in life, they need nourishing food most of the time. This section spells out how children's bodies give clues to their nutritional status, plus it explains how specific nutrients are needed to build healthy bodies. In this world where there is an overabundance of processed food, healthy eaters are created through the diligent work of their parents. Reasons why this is so are discussed below.
Build A Healthy Body
Did you ever stop to think how your baby grows from about 6-8 pounds at birth to over 100 pounds in 16 years? What makes up those arms, legs, teeth, blood, bones, and muscle? Nutrients do, and lots of them. That is why children need more nutritious food per pound of body weight than adults.
Tell your kids that you want them to grow up to be strong and healthy. A diet full of candy, carbonated soda drinks, and chips won't build a healthy body that has reached its full health potential or can readily fight off disease. Arms made out of cookies, legs made of French fries? That won't do.
Taste Is Learned
Most of us think that kids come into the world liking certain foods and hating others. This is not true. Besides being born with an aversion to bitter taste and preferring sweet taste as a whole, we learn to like foods by what is introduced to us at an early age and by what we are exposed to time and time again. Korean babies love pre-chewed beef, Greek babies love fish, babies of vegetarians love vegetables. Do they have a genetic predisposition to like these foods? No, they like these foods because they were fed them at an early age and are now accustomed to those tastes.
Think of your child's tongue as a canvas that an artist paints on. Your child's taste buds are being exposed to and setting preferences for certain tastes very early on in life. If you want to bring up a healthy eater, make sure you expose their palettes to the taste of healthy food, especially the dark green leafy varieties and cruciferous vegetables (kale, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage) starting at a young age. These vegetables can be bitter but they are 'power houses' of nutrients and your child will benefit from eating them. They are the superheroes of food.
Kids Will Eat When Hungry
Kids will eat when they are hungry. This may sound simple but kids snack more nowadays than ever before and they often arrive at mealtime with little to no appetite because they are already full or slightly full. As a rule, you will always have an easier time feeding your child healthy food if they are actually hungry.
If your child has trouble eating his/her meals, limit availability of snacks to them such that no snacks may be had closer than two hours before a meal. If they get home from school late, and dinner is in an hour, have them eat veggies and dip. You will be amazed at the difference between a truly hungry child sitting down to dinner (they gobble up their food with little resistance) and one that comes half full or with no appetite at all (no amount of fighting or pleading will get them to eat).
Watch Out For Chemicals
There are thousands of chemicals that are in the environment that our children are exposed to every day and many have not been proven to be safe. Whether in the air, water, food supply, clothes they wear, the bed they sleep in, or the toys they play with, chemicals can be everywhere. The more you investigate, the more you learn. The best place to start for more information is http://www.ewg.org/
Children not only absorb a higher concentration of pesticides found in their food supply than adults do, but they are also more vulnerable to the toxic effects of these chemicals. Try to limit the amount that your child is exposed to by purchasing or growing organic produce, especially when it comes to those fruits and vegetables that are shown to typically contain a high amount of pesticides. You can go to: http://www.foodnews.org/ EWG-shoppers-guide-download-final.pdf for the 'Dirty Dozen' list. This is a list of fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticides on them. When it comes to milk, look for hormone free varieties (BhG free) since your child doesn't need the extra growth hormone in their body as they grow.
So that you don't overwhelm yourself or your family, try tackling one area at a time. Switching to organic produce is a great first step. You may then consider using only earth and kid friendly cleaning supplies. Begin with what concerns you the most and make changes at a pace that works for your family.
The Color Of Pee Can Tell You How Hydrated Your Child Is
Water is essential for health and children learn better when they are fully hydrated. A sign that your child is well hydrated is if their urine is pale yellow to clear and has little odor. If they aren't getting enough water from their diet (fruits, vegetables and water) their urine will be bright yellow with a strong odor. Kids need about 0.8 ounces of water per pound so that would be 3 cups (24 ounces) for someone 30 pounds and 6 cups for a child 60 pounds. This may seem like a lot, but juices, fruit, vegetables, and milk will meet some of this requirement.
Kids are more vulnerable to dehydration than adults because they need more for growing, they don't adapt to the hot and humid weather as well as adults do, they often refuse to eat or drink when they don't feel well and they drink many sugar laden beverages that do little to hydrate them. Have your child drink plain water and save the supplemented waters and hydrating drinks for when they are dehydrated or exercising heavily.
If your child is sick or exercising heavily don't rely on thirst as an indicator. In these circumstances, thirst is not a good early indicator of inadequate hydration and your child may already be dehydrated by the time they feel thirsty. Monitor their fluid intake during these conditions closely.
The Skin Is The Window To The Intestines
It is quite common for children (and adults) to develop rashes, eczema, and cradle cap because they are reacting to something that they are eating. In certain forms of medicine, practitioners view the skin as a window to what is happening inside the intestines.
If your child has a skin disorder that doesn't seem to go away despite the use of topical creams, you may want to investigate the possibility that the rash is diet related. It is best to do this under the guidance of an integrative medicine doctor or naturopathic physician. They will often remove common food allergens, (like wheat or dairy) one at a time, from your child's diet until an improvement is seen. To confirm the diagnosis of a food sensitivity (differs from a food allergy because you cannot test for this effectively using blood or skin tests), the food is then reintroduced to see if the symptoms return.
Excerpted from Nutrition Bites by Deb Kennedy Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Deb Kennedy. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Section I GENERAL INFORMATION....................3
Section II IN THEIR BODIES....................13
Section III NUTRIENTS TO FOCUS ON....................27
Section IV THE RULES....................39
Section V IN THE SUPERMARKET....................50
Section VI IN THE KITCHEN....................64
Section VII AT THE TABLE....................81