Your Family's Nutrition

Two big challenges to raising healthy kids today are enormous portion sizes and the fact that there are so many unhealthy, but tempting, food choices available. When children and teens fill up on sweets and highly processed foods, they lose their appetites for foods that have the nutrients their bodies need. As kids get older, they’ll be making more of those choices for themselves, so it’s never too early to start teaching them how to make healthy, balanced selections.

 
Do: Serve foods close to their natural state: fresh or unsweetened dried fruit instead of fruit roll-ups; whole-wheat bread instead of white; lean cuts of meat such as turkey or chicken breast instead of processed meats such as sausage or hot dogs.
 
Better by Nature- For sweet treats, stick with fresh fruit. (Babies aren’t born wanting ice cream or cookies.) Avoid refined sugar and other sweeteners as long as possible.
 
Calcium Counts- Getting enough calcium is tough for kids who drink too much juice, soda, or other beverages that don’t contain it. One way you can help is by limiting the availability of those drinks in your home. You can also keep low-fat flavored milks and calcium-fortified milk alternatives on hand and serve them at meals. Though they have added sugar, it’s not nearly as much as soda, and studies show that, for many kids, they boost calcium intake.
 
Do: Set clear family rules on when it’s acceptable to eat sweets, such as having desserts only on the weekends or only for special occasions.
 
Keep it Fresh- Keep introducing new, healthy foods to your family. Kids are more likely to eat a variety of healthy foods if they’re given opportunities to try them. Cut up a raw jicama and eat it like celery. Buy a pomegranate and eat the seeds.
 
If you’re fortunate, you have kids who are open to trying new foods and have a varied diet. But not all kids are this way. Some are fussy about what they eat, and they can complain about textures, temperatures, food touching other food, and strong tastes and smells. Researchers say that this is a biological phenomenon, and some kids are more affected by it than others.
 
Don’t: Label these kids as “picky,” “spoiled,” or “fussy.” Do: Embrace their eating habits and talk about how they have discriminating, discerning taste.
 
Don’t: Never force your child to eat. Do: Invite her to eat and offer a lot of healthy choices. Some kids won’t try new foods until they’ve seen other people eat them a few times, and some won’t go near a piece of broccoli no matter how many times you offer it.
 
Consult a Pediatrician If you become concerned that your child’s eating habits may be a problem, talk with a pediatrician. Doctors who work with children understand the phenomenon of discriminating eaters. They may prescribe a multivitamin, make a referral to a child nutritionist, or have other suggestions if you’re concerned about your child’s diet.
 
Be Patient- Some kids go through periods when they’re more particular about foods, and then grow out of them. Other kids will remain steadfast for years. If your child will eat only macaroni and cheese for breakfast, lunch, and supper, continue to offer other foods, but don’t become overly concerned.