Yes, everyone is busy. Yes, a lot of activities are vying for top priority. Yes,school is underway and extracurricular activities are either in full swing or are about to gear up. But since eating healthy matters to us, we’re trying to make some easy, small, positive changes.
This month is a great time to start making changes in your family’s eating habits too! Since September is 5-A-Day Month (to encourage eating five servings of vegetables and fruits every day), we’ve been talking a lot in our family about eating healthier.
Here’s why eating healthy matters:
1. More than one out of four young people are either overweight or obese.
2. Only 20 percent of kids eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
3. Nationally, 44 percent of kids are trying to lose weight. One out of 10 does not eat for 24 or more hours to try to lose weight.
4. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories yet rich in nutrients and fiber.
I have one adventuresome eating kid and one picky eater. The one who loves to try new foods made a list of vegetables and fruits that were high in fiber, such as apples, lentils, lima beans, pears, and raspberries. We began keeping track of how many servings per day that we ate—some days were better than others! Then we began to set goals. At first we set goals of eating three a day and now we’re going higher. It has become a competition of sorts in my household.
My picky eater is trickier. We can count the total number of foods he’ll eat on two hands, and he’s quick to notice if we try to sneak in healthy foods, such as recipes from The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Alpine and Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld. Yet, he understands why it’s important to eat healthy. We’ve identified fruits he likes (such as apples and bananas), and we’ve encouraged him to eat at least one a day—if not two.
Are we setting low expectations for our picky eater? I don’t think so. We’ve worked with nutritionists, and they say it’s better to be encouraging—rather than discouraging. Setting a goal of five a day was just too much. We’ve tried it. The result? He ended up eating zero. So right now, I’m pleased with the one or two. Once that sticks, we’ll aim for three.
We also know a number of kids who are vegetarians. That’s great if they’re eating healthy and also finding vegetarian protein sources. The problem, however, is that there are some kids who declare that they’re vegetarian so that they can eat cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, and other meatless dishes—while skipping every vegetable that comes their way.
As parents, we can’t force our kids to eat healthy, but we can encourage them to. Our kids know that every night for dinner, we serve a salad. We always have fruit that’s cut up, and we have a vegetable side dish. Our refrigerator is stocked with fruit juices, and we keep talking about why eating five a day matters. We also love to try new foods. When is the last time you ate jicama? Once we tried it, we loved it.
How do you get your kids to eat well?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior
Surveillance. Surveillance Summaries. June 4, 2010. Morbidity and
Weekly Report 2010; 59 (No. SS-5), 28-34.
Centers for Disease Control, Fruits and Veggies Matter,
Produce for Better Health Foundation,