With a new school year just under way, Northern Health Community Nutritionists are offering these tips to earn your children an A+ for healthy eating habits and physical activity.
For good health and a healthy weight, nutrition and physical activity play an important role. Be sure to pack fun and nutritious foods along with physical activity into your family’s daily routine.
Depending on their age, many children know the healthful eating basics. And most know that they need to eat smart and move their bodies to stay healthy.
The challenge is turning their knowledge into smart eating practices.
Children learn their food habits by watching others – not just parents, but also friends. For parents: Your food choices and lifestyle habits help set your children’s food decisions and behavior.
* Keep a regular meal schedule: When meals aren’t regular or when meals are missed, children tend to snack more heavily throughout the day, so they’re less hungry at mealtime.
* Empower your kids: Involve kids in planning meals and snacks. Encourage your children to try new foods without forcing or bribing them. Keep fresh fruit on the counter where kids can see it. Wash and cut up veggies, so they’re ready to eat.
* Eat as a family: Aim for all family members to eat together at least once a day. Cook fast and eat slowly, allowing time for you to pay attention to feeling full. If your family is always “on the go,” designate family dinner nights.
* Snacks can be healthy: Chosen carefully, snacks can supply nutrients that may be missing from the rest of the day’s meals. Children enjoy foods with sensory appeal: brightly colored fruits and vegetables; freshly cut watermelon; soft, creamy cheese with crisp, crunchy crackers. Offer snacks two hours or more before meals, that way kids will be hungry at mealtime.
* Physical activity: Children need to move for good health. Encourage the whole family to exercise together. Go for a bike ride, play tennis or shoot hoops. Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
Eating smart and moving more can lead your kids to a healthy and successful school year.
For more information on family and children’s nutrition, contact a Community Nutritionist through your local health unit. The Dietitians of Canada website has additional information and handouts for parents including Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating and Canada’s Physical Activity Guide for Children and Youth: www.dietitians.ca/child/content/resources/index.asp
This article has been adapted from the American Dietetic Association.