PLEASE, GIVE ‘EM AN APPLE
It starts with YOU!
I am a keen observer of people, and as a Mom of four kiddos, enjoy watching families interact in a variety of settings. Lately, I have been paying particular attention to kids eating.
Whether at a church gathering, swimming practice, Starbucks, or the neighborhood splash pad, hungry kids want to eat, and for little kids, parents are in the driver’s seat regarding food choices. Many a time I have been surprised – and a bit saddened – by these choices.
Here are some tips that may help parents who are seeking ways to improve their kids’ nutrition.
1. BE PREPARED
Carry healthy snacks, such as carrots, celery, apples, dried vegetables and fruits, different nuts and seeds, and bagel chips or vegetable crackers with you. Add hummus, almond or peanut butter, or avocado dip for more flavor and nutritional value. Bottled water, of course. This will require a good cupboard supply as well as getting in the habit of chugging a lunch box or cooler around, but it’s worth the effort. Don’t get caught off guard! If you can pull out these healthy snacks quickly when your kids need food N-O-W, the entire family be much less prone to going for nachos, fries, ice cream, and other unhealthy foods.
2. STEER AWAY FROM CAFFEINE
I’m the first one to love coffee and drink it almost every day: at home, at the office, or at a coffee shop… and I admit that I enjoy the occasional soft drink, too. But beware of too much caffeine intake, and definitely reduce it as much as possible for your kids. Not only does caffeine interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium, and calcium absorption is very important when their bones are being built, but it also stimulates the adrenal glands, setting off biochemical reactions throughout the body to prepare us for fight or flight. Have highly energetic kids? Don’t feed them caffeine; it’s the last thing they need.
3. USE A HUNGER SCALE TO PLAN MEAL & SNACK TIMES
My youngest daughter gets cranky when she’s hungry. It took me several times to catch on that most often, when she was uncharacteristically rebellious or whiny, a good meal was the cure. Are you familiar with the Hunger/Fullness scale? This scale measures, obviously, level of Hunger, going from 1 – Ravenously Hungry- to 10 – Sick or “more than stuffed” – (stuffed is #9). Its objective is to help you determine the best times to start and stop eating, and this is determined by the child’s level of hunger, not necessarily by the clock, when he’s done playing a cool game or by your relatives’ convenience. Developing a good sense of perception for when their hunger is between 3-7 and being prepared (such as providing a light snack, if dinner won’t be served until later) are good ways to avoid both the negative effects of unidentified hunger and overeating.
4. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS INCLUDE A VEGGIE
Pizza day? Mac n cheese dinner? Ok, I get that you’re ultra busy and sometimes these quick solutions are easy and your kids love them, so go ahead and use them sometimes! However, never alone… always, always, always, accompany with a Veggie. Broccoli, carrots, green beens… at least avocado (a nutrient-dense fruit) or sliced apples! Try making the fruit or veggie the first part of the meal, serving a big portion of it, and only serve the pizza once the veggie’s gone. Once this becomes a habit in your home, if you forget the veggie one day, your kids will remind you!
5. REMEMBER, THEY WILL DO AS YOU DO, NOT AS YOU SAY.
Make a quick check – what are You eating? Do not expect them to stick to almonds, grapes, and water, if you are eating chips and drinking Diet Coke. Add salad (preferably not with traditional, high carb dressings), fruit and vegetable, beans and lentils to your food, go for fresh instead of canned, and limit desserts or have a treat of the week where you get to eat any dessert you want. Take your kids to the grocery store and go nuts in the organics section. Nowadays there are many delicious and healthy foods available, both for main meals and for snacks. Invest what you save from not buying soft drinks, cookies and chips, in organic choices. Try at least one new food per week: if you like even 50% of them, that’s 24 new healthy foods that you will add to your family’s diet per year!