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Healthy Eating Habits for Kids

Sometimes it’s a battle, right? Feeding your kids food that they will eat, but that’s also healthy and nutrient rich. Teaching good eating habits is important to instill in the early years so that kids will grow into healthy teens and adults.

According to a study from Iowa State University, almost one in two children in the U.S. is either overweight or obese. That is about half of the kids in America! Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help your kids develop healthy eating habits:

  1. Remove temptation. Keep very few high-fat, high-calorie snack foods in the house. Instead, stock up on healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, nuts, carrots and air-popped popcorn. Keep these snacks readily available and save cookies and other treats for special occasions.
  2. Don’t use food as a reward. Doing this teaches children that some foods are better or more valuable than others. It can also help set up an unhealthy relationship with food.
  3. Teach kids to identify hunger. Much of our eating these days is in response to “emotional” hunger such as stress, anxiety, boredom or loneliness, rather than physical hunger. Help your child recognize “hunger cues” and “non-hunger cues” by asking if he or she is really hungry before automatically providing a snack. Sometimes reading a book, playing outside or doing some other activity is a better alternative than turning to snacks.

When packing lunches for young kids, think contrast and variety. Using lots of colors, textures and shapes makes lunches more tempting for little ones.

  1. Color: Include foods with at least two colors from the rainbow along with neutral colors from grains, meats and dairy products. Baby carrots, string cheese, and grapes add color and are fun to eat.
  2. Texture: Include soft foods, such as bread, rice or pasta along with something crunchy or crisp, such as fresh fruits and veggies, chopped nuts, etc.
  3. Shapes: Perk up a lunch box by cutting sandwiches and other foods into strips or triangles. Consider adding foods that naturally come in interesting shapes, such as cauliflower “clouds” or sliced bell pepper “rings.”

How do you know if your elementary school aged child is getting proper nutrition? Should she be taking a multivitamin?

Multivitamins aren’t necessary for most healthy children who are growing normally, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Regular meals and snacks can provide all the nutrients most young children need.

While many children are picky eaters, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have nutritional deficiencies. Many foods, including breakfast cereal, milk, and orange juice, are fortified with important nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium and iron. So your child may be getting more vitamins and minerals than you think.

Furthermore, multivitamins aren’t without some risks. Megadoses of vitamins and minerals can be toxic. In addition, some vitamins and minerals can interact with medications your child may take.

Talk with your child’s doctor if you’re concerned about whether your child is getting the recommended level of vitamins and minerals. A multivitamin might be helpful for your child if he or she:

  • Has a delay in physical and developmental growth
  • Has a poor appetite and very erratic eating habits
  • Has certain chronic diseases or food allergies
  • Has a restrictive diet, such as a strict vegan diet

If your child’s doctor recommends a multivitamin, choose one that is designed for your child’s age group and doesn’t provide more than 100 percent of the Daily Value of vitamins and minerals. Keep multivitamins out of your child’s reach and make it clear that they aren’t candy.

 

Sources: Iowa State University; University of California, Davis; American Academy of Pediatrics; Mayo Clinic

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