Thursday, October 11th, 2012
All parents want to make sure their kids have healthy eating habits. But it’s not easy to find simple ways to do this, given the hectic realities of modern day living. So how can you find a balance which gives your kids good basic habits without requiring a major life overhaul?
To get some advice, I contacted Karen Avila. Karen is a registered dietitian with a Master’s degree in Dietetics and Food Administration, and also a Certified Personal Trainer. She is the founder of Healthy Karen where she specializes in medical, pediatric, and sports nutrition, along with weight management. In addition, as a busy mom to two boys, she has gone through her own trials and errors at home that have helped her figure out what works with kids – and especially what works on a regular basis. Here are her 5 most important simple ways to integrate healthy eating habits in your daily routine.
- Make mornings count. Give your kid a healthy high fiber breakfast. Add sliced berries, bananas, or raisins to a high fiber cereal (good choices include frosted shredded mini wheats, Raisin Bran, and 100% All Bran). When selecting a bread, make sure that the first ingredient is “whole wheat or grain” – and choose a bread with the least number of ingredients. Another good quick breakfast is a smoothie with peanut butter and banana. Breakfast is really important for kids and you want to find something nutritious that they like and will eat on a regular basis. Click here for some great breakfast recipes and more advice on breakfast from Karen.
- Limit juice and sport drink intake. These drinks are loaded with empty calories and kids often fill up on them rather than nutrient rich foods – and keep in mind that sports drinks are a leading cause of tooth decay in teens. As a compromise, you can at least water down your kids sport drink and/or juice. And try to promote some water drinking, especially when kids are thirsty (say after sports or dance). They’ll be happy to drink the water and it’s a way to get it into their daily routine.
- Provide good tasting alternatives to junk food. You don’t have to completely eliminate junk food in the house. But, you can reduce how much your kids eat, and give them healthy alternatives that they will like. Put out veggies and healthy dips during snack time on a regular basis. Keep putting them out. Your kids will start eating them, especially if there is nothing else to choose from. Some other ideas – you can add ground flax to homemade brownies and baked goods, and substitute applesauce for vegetable oil to make a healthier version of your child’s favorite baked goods.
- Have healthy snacks available in your car. With everyone’s busy schedules, parents and kids spend lots of time in the car. To avoid making a pit stop at a fast food joint a routine while on the road, pack healthy foods. These can include nuts, fruit, and whole grain crackers. You all can have a good snack and be ready for a healthy dinner later on.
- Don’t forbid foods. All these tips are ways of encouraging healthy eating habits in kids. Actively forbidding foods always backfires – it just makes kids want these foods more. But practicing moderation and setting limits is very important. If your kids like sugary junk cereal, let them have a small box one morning on the weekend – as long as they eat their power breakfast during the week. By buying small boxes (let your kid pick it out) and making only one box available for that breakfast, you are helping your child understand how to have some of the junk food they like without eating too much of it, or eating it too frequently.
Lastly, Karen suggests that you should follow these guidelines as well for yourself. By being a role model for your child, and getting them started on healthy eating habits early in life, they will have a platform for good health that will have a huge impact on their future.