Challenges of Child Nutrition: Busy working parents have too little time to prepare whole-wheat pancakes with happy faces and fresh-squeezed orange juice every morning. And unless you’re feeding a five-year-old who’s still waking up perky at five a.m., you haven’t much hope of shoveling all that food into a kid before the carpool arrives anyway!
Maybe the Food Scenario in Your Family is Something Like This:
- Your child is already convinced that healthy food is “yucky” food.
- Green food gets fed to the dog under the table.
- The dog hangs out in front of the TV where the kids eat.
- Your kid’s idea of child nutrition is eating anything that has sugar and fat and goes great with soda pop.
- Just when you had your child convinced that peanut butter on celery was an acceptable snack, all his friends convinced him that green and blue ketchup on fries was better.
Do you feel overwhelmed by all the advice on the web about child nutrition and a healthy diet for toddlers? Don’t feel alone. In the table below are the typical tips for Martha Stewart-type moms and those with personal shoppers. In the second column, you’ll find the practical version for single parents, lousy cooks, and people who can’t afford to shop in health food stores.
|Experts say:||Advice for the rest of us:|
|Feed kids a variety of healthy snacks like raw veggies and fresh fruit.||Get big bags of snack food and repackage them into snack-size ziplock bags. Include baby carrots, trail mix, frozen grapes, and frozen peas. Keep lots of little boxes of raisins for “dessert.”|
|Avoid cookies, ice cream, junk food, chips, and fruit juice made from water and sugar.||Unless you live on the moon, your kids will crave all that stuff. Let the kids make healthy cookies sweetened with applesauce. Wash and peel fruit and give your kids something to dip them in. Buy frozen yogurt.|
|Give your children lots of variety.||If your child wants nothing but apples and cheese, then go with the flow. Next week he’ll want nothing but cereal and hot dogs. Do keep offering other things and let him eat off your plate if he’d like a sample. Don’t get your hopes up. In the meantime, discuss nutritional supplements with your pediatrician.|
|Make sure your children exercise. Go hiking together on weekends.||Install a basketball hoop. Get a membership to the local swimming pool and share the driving with a neighbor who has kids the same age. Choose only a few activities that your whole family will enjoy.|
|Feed your child a diet rich in calcium and iron.||If your child’s allergic to dairy products, forget the milk, cheese, and yogurt. Choose calcium-fortified foods. Use nutritional supplements. A multivitamin might be in order.|
|Avoid fast-food restaurants.||Limit how many times a month you go to a fast-food place. Make sure everyone in your family has a plan to burn those extra calories. Follow up with a walk or bike ride.|
Beware of hype that makes child nutrition seem like a breeze. It’s actually a lot of work, particularly at the grocery store. Plan ahead and go with a list.
Make sure your child drinks plenty of water. Not only is this a good habit, but water is a great substitute for unhealthy soda pop and sugary juices. Keep abreast of the fluoride controversy. If you think your kids need fluoride, you should know that they won’t get it from bottled water. On the other hand, if you’re worried about fluoride levels, you might avoid tap water and supervise toothpaste use with younger children.
Baby Nutrition: The Good News
If you’re breastfeeding your baby, you probably already know that your infant is getting perfect baby nutrition—better even than any multivitamin on the market. You don’t even need to give your baby any additional water!
If your baby is on formula, be aware that soy alternatives are available for infants who exhibit an allergy to dairy products. Cow’s milk is no longer the child nutrition staple it was considered to be in the past, and your kids can grow strong teeth and healthy bones without it.
Teen Nutrition: Where Did We Go Wrong?
Good teen nutrition may seem like an impossible dream. Some fortunate parents are seeing the tide turn as teenagers consider the salad bar a far more “mature” food choice than a cheeseburger with fries.
What do we do about teen nutrition that revolves around fat and sugar? The answer may be simpler than you think: all teens have social relationships on their minds, and you can appeal to their vanity. Think like they do, arrange for shortcuts, and your teen will appreciate your efforts.
Here’s a Quick Guide to Major Teen Nutrition Issues.
|Your Teen’s Point of View:||Action Plan:|
|I’d rather sleep than get up early for breakfast.||Make breakfast to go. Fruit and a muffin with a carton of (enriched) juice will do it. A hard-boiled egg or string cheese provides protein. Eat at the bus stop or in the car. Put the multivitamin jar by the toothbrush so your teens remember to take their supplements.|
|I have to stay up late studying so don’t bug me if I’m eating chocolate bars.||Don’t keep chocolate bars around. Provide energy bars, raisins, fresh fruit, and frozen fruit bars.|
|It’s not cool to pack a sack lunch. All the kids eat chips at lunchtime. I won’t get fat if I eat just four ounces of chips.||Pack a bagful of small snacks to be eaten throughout the day. String cheese. Raisins. Turkey jerky. Raw almonds. Blueberries. Orange segments.|
|I’m hungry when I get home from school. I won’t spoil my dinner if I eat a few cookies at 3 o’clock!||Keep cookies in a locked file cabinet drawer. Make a variety of healthy foods available in the fridge and pantry. Arrange a visit with a personal trainer to find a workout program that your teen will enjoy after school. Invest in exercise equipment.|