Raising Healthy Children in a Tempting World
In a world of easily accessible delicious treats, it can be tough to make healthy decisions. Fast food restaurants are available on every street corner and if you don’t feel like driving, food delivery services are available with just a tap of the finger. Seriously, no discredit to Door Dash, because I’ll be the first to admit, when I found out I could get Chipotle delivered to my front door, I downloaded the app and had burritos on the table for the whole family in 30 minutes! A huge convenience and a huge time-saver! However, we, as the parents, have the choice of what we put on the table for our families to eat every night. While it is more than ok to indulge and give into a craving every once in a while, we should try to always keep in mind that good nutrition and regular activity is a key to healthy life. So how can we ensure our children are getting the nutrition and activity they need as they grow? We can start teaching our kids at a very young age so that as they grow older, they continue to make healthy choices.
As infants, breast milk or formula are the only options available, but also provide almost every nutrient a baby needs during their first year of life. Typically, offering a baby of about 6 months old healthy jarred baby foods and infant cereals is normal and advised by pediatricians. Once a baby learns to start getting different textures in their mouths and down their throats, we can start introducing healthy finger foods such as; cooked carrots, cut up fresh fruit or grilled chicken. Once a child hits the toddler age, feeding them can sometimes be a challenge. Toddlers are learning who they are and learning how to express themselves and can become a little bit picky, which means it can be difficult to find something they will eat. Trust me, when my daughter was 3, she actually broke into tears and a full-on fit that lasted for 40 minutes because I cut her banana the wrong way, so I know all about picky eaters! One of the greatest tips I was given when she was that age, was to let her help prepare her own food. That obviously doesn’t mean let her flip the chicken in the skillet and use a sharp knife to cut vegetables, but to simply let her choose from a couple options and arrange it the way she wanted it on a plate (of her choice) made a huge difference. Letting a toddler have a choice of what they eat will make them want to at least try it. Offer things such as cut up fruit, bite size pieces of cheese, low-fat yogurt or different types of whole grain healthy crackers.
Once children start going to school, we have less control over what they eat during the day, but we can still try to do everything we can to maintain healthy eating patterns. I pack both of my children’s lunches every day so that I can at least try to monitor what they eat and what they don’t. I like to send things like turkey breast and cheese roll ups on whole wheat tortillas, yogurt, carrot sticks and apple slices with peanut butter. Luckily, both of my girls very much enjoy fruits and vegetables and always ask for me to put them in their lunches. It is so important to remember that our children learn by watching us, so if we make healthy food choices, they will be more likely to make the same choices.
When children become teenagers, the control over what they eat can become almost nonexistent because they are at the age where they are out on their own more and become more independent. The number of obese children and teenagers climbed from 5% in 1980 to almost 21% in 2012, with numbers still climbing in 2019. This is why it’s so important for parents to promote healthy eating habits at a young age, limit screen time and encourage physical activity. It can take some time for a child to decide what they are interested in and what they aren’t when it comes to sports and physical activities, but giving them options and being open to what they are interested in will give them hope and show them how supportive you are of them and how you have their best interest in mind. Always keep in mind that being a growing kid can be challenging and having a parent’s support can make all the difference in the world.