When the USDA revised its food pyramid nutrition guidelines last year, its goal was to educate children and adults alike on the new recommendations. Now, just more than half a year later, the movement toward a healthier lifestyle is picking up steam. With school-based health and wellness programs like “Let’s Move” and “Fuel Up to Play 60” becoming popular, kids across the country are making a conscious effort to make nutritious food choices and prioritize daily activity.
Nutrition educators at Learning ZoneXpress, a USDA partner and producer of “edu-taining” learning tools, has developed this list of popular tips and tricks to help kids make healthy food choices:
- Get kids involved. It can start at the grocery store. Let them choose a fruit, vegetable or whole-grain snack. If they choose the food, it is more likely the child will want to eat it. At home, let the kids help with meal preparation. Young children can help gather and wash the food, while pre-teens, with supervision, can help stir or saute at the stove. Teenagers can help chop vegetables or use the oven. By involving kids in the process, they are more likely to try new foods.
- Make fruits and vegetables a bigger part of your day. Eating healthier does not mean kids have to feel hungry. Instead, try helping your kids fill up on more fruits and vegetables, which are rich in fiber – a key nutrient that will help them feel full longer. The new MyPlate recommends filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Eat breakfast every day. Even if the children only have time for a banana and a piece of string cheese on their way out the door, eating breakfast is important for both kids and parents. It provides energy and curbs hunger later in the day when you will be more likely to snack.
- Eat dinner on a smaller plate. Healthy eating doesn’t mean children have to give up all their favorite foods. Instead, try eating smaller portion sizes. At home, serve meals on smaller plates, like a salad plate. It will appear you are eating more, and it will be less tempting to add larger portions of food.
- Don’t eat out of the package. Always put food in a bowl or on a plate. This makes it easy to see the exact portion of food. When Junior eats directly from the package, he’s less in tune with what and how much he is eating.
- If given the option, order the smaller portion. This small change can save hundreds of calories. For example, a small hamburger contains 260 calories while a large burger contains 730 calories – a difference of 470 calories! If a smaller portion is not available, try sharing the meal or packaging a portion of it in a doggie bag as soon as the meal arrives.
- Set small goals. Eating healthy starts by setting small goals and sticking to them. For example, encourage the whole family to try drinking more water, cut out soda or replace high-calorie and sugary desserts with a piece of fruit. It will be easier to stick to healthy goals if the whole family is committed to better habits.
For more healthy eating information and free nutrition resources for engaging growing students, visit www.freemyplate.com.