With childhood obesity on the rise and parents, teachers and caregivers more aware of the problem than ever, many people are looking for ways to improve their kids’ health. Where to start? It can seem overwhelming, but taking a few small steps at a time and adding on good habits bit by bit can get you to your healthful goals. Having a plan can help. Here are some tips on developing a healthy eating plan for kids.
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Foods like chicken nuggets, pizza, and macaroni and cheese are kid favorites, but they are often automatically assumed to be “junk food.” However, these foods can be healthful if they are prepared using healthy ingredients – and you may need to make your own instead of buying them from the store. But start small – begin, for example, by creating a healthful pizza:
– 1 store-bought, whole wheat pizza crust (or gluten-free pizza crust from your favorite health food store)
– Garden vegetable jarred spaghetti sauce
– Vegetarian pepperoni or nitrite/nitrate-free pepperoni
– Chopped onion, olives, green pepper, and minced spinach (they’ll never know it’s there!) for toppings
– Mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
Use only 4 ounces of grated mozzarella on the pizza, and mix in 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan. This makes a tangy cheese mix that has all the taste and a lot less fat than a full 8-ounce block of mozzarella would have.
Then the following week, add homemade chicken nuggets to your list (chicken breast cut into nugget-sized pieces, dipped in bread crumbs, and baked). Then move on to homemade fish sticks (whole fish fillets cut into sticks, dipped in bread crumbs, and baked). After that, make your own mac and cheese using whole wheat pasta and substituting low-fat Greek yogurt for half the cheese and milk. You get the idea!
Kids are supposed to get five servings of fruits and vegetables a day (so are adults). One of the easiest ways to do this is to add a fruit and vegetable to each meal – if you do that, you’ll get six a day, which is even better! You can also substitute fruits and veggies for other, less healthy options. Here are some ideas.
* A piece of fruit with breakfast
* Chopped veggies into an omelet or scrambled eggs
* A salad or other raw vegetable and a cooked vegetable at the same meal
* Mixed fruit with plain yogurt
* A fruit or vegetable snack between meals
* Potato chips and full-fat dip with baked corn chips and salsa
* Processed fruit snacks with natural dried fruits
* Full-fat chocolate milk or milkshakes with fruit smoothies
* Candy bars and cookies with healthy granola bars (check the sugar content and make sure it’s significantly less in the granola bar)
* White flour and sugar with whole wheat flour and raw honey
* Dessert with fresh fruit and vanilla yogurt
At the store, here are some basic tips for staying on track.
* Do most of your shopping at the edge of the store; it’s in the center aisles that you find most of the processed foods.
* On grocery day, wash and chop all your produce and store them in easily accessible containers. Even better, mix and match fruits and veggies into individual containers so all you have to do is grab a box/bag out of the fridge for munching on the go or at home.
* Make your list reflect your plate – your list should have most items listed in the produce section, followed by whole grains and lean meats.