Our goals, of course, are for young ones to achieve their full physical and mental development. To enjoy food. And to maintain a healthy weight as they skip into adulthood.
How are we doing? The good news is that, after two decades of skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity, the numbers are beginning to stabilize. The bad news? Several key nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, potassium and dietary fiber, are being under-consumed by young children.
Here are some ways we can feed our kids to keep them healthy for a lifetime:
Provide “nutrient-dense” foods that supply a big nutritional bang for the calorie buck. A small orange for example, is loaded with potassium and dietary fiber for a measly 60 calories. Cheetos, on the other hand, have few nutrients except fat, refined starch and salt for 160 calories.
Serve child-sized portions on child-sized plates. Studies show that the larger the plate, the more food we tend to eat.
Limit juice. Even 100 percent fruit juice in a cute little container is a vehicle for concentrated calories. Experts recommend no more than 4 to 6 ounces of juice a day.
Limit fast food. Frequent fast food sets Junior up to overload on calories and under-consume key nutrients.
Nourish little bodies and minds in the morning. Little ones who eat a simple morning meal can be expected to perform better with school tasks than those who do not, say researchers.
Be the parent. Kids can regulate their food intake well but only if they are in an environment that supports that.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at bquinnchomp.org.
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