Children’s eating habits are a national concern because of the high and increasing prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States. New recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasize the importance of introducing kids to a wide variety of “whole foods.” Whole foods are naturally low in sodium and include a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts, lean meat, fish as well as low-fat dairy. In recognition of National Nutrition Month, Le Bonheur Dietitian Lindsey Lee, MS, RD, LDN, shares some ways parents can ensure their child is eating a healthful diet.
- Increasing variety is a good strategy for promoting moderation. If your kids enjoy a variety of foods than they are less likely to over consume any one type of food. It is important to remember that even foods generally considered to be healthful can contribute to negative health outcomes if over consumed.
- Moderate and prudent use of sweeteners, fat, salt, and spices can be a good way to make nutrient-rich foods more palatable to children. These foods often get labeled as “bad.” Incorporating these foods in a way that enhances the flavor of a nutrient rich food rather than covering it up, can teach your child how to include these foods in their diet in a healthful way instead of creating a cycle of deprivation and overconsumption.
- The overall goal for a child’s diet should be to consume enough energy and nutrients, vitamins and minerals, to promote growth and health. Small increases in the caloric and/or sodium content of nutrient rich “whole foods” from added fats, sweeteners, and seasonings can help meet both a child’s energy and nutrient needs. Whereas, adding fats and sweeteners to processed foods low in nutrients can often prevent adequate intakes of vitamins and minerals.
- Involving your child in meal planning and preparation will teach him how to balance energy-rich foods, high in calories, with nutrient-rich foods, high in vitamins and minerals, for a balanced and pleasurable diet that results in positive health outcomes.