If you’re the parent of an infant or toddler, you’ve probably given a lot of thought to how you can raise a non-picky eater who enjoys a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and doesn’t overdo it on junk food. Diets rich in colorful fruits and vegetables and low in sugary and energy-dense foods and drinks can help kids (and parents) maintain a healthy weight, prevent cancer as adults and reduce their risk of other chronic diseases.
Raising kids that prefer healthy foods isn’t easy, but a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests strategies that parents can try with their young children that may affect what foods kids enjoy and eat more of as they get older. It joins a growing body of research pointing to the importance of introducing a wide variety of vegetables to children under the age of 2. It also provide new evidence that parents should avoid introducing foods low in nutrients, but high in saturated fat, added sugars, or salt to young children who haven’t yet tasted them.
This study used data from the NOURISH trial, a randomized control trial that began in Australia in 2008. The original study looked at whether providing new mothers with guidance on feeding and parenting practices affected outcomes as children got older. In this new study, researchers analyzed data from 340 mother-child pairs to see whether the amount of fruits, vegetables, and noncore (low-nutrient) foods tried by 14-month olds affected their preference for and intake of these foods, food fussiness, and weight about two and half years later. Continue reading
Kids yelling, tossing chicken tenders, and begging for dessert; we’ve all seen this nightmarish scene in our local restaurant. In fact, many people completely avoid dining out with young children because it feels like too much work. Plus, kids don’t typically request the healthiest restaurant options so you have to wonder – is it even worth bringing the kids along?
The truth is, much of our food dollar is being spent at restaurants today. Eating out is a cultural reality that can and should be a pleasant experience for everyone. Instead of fearing the dreaded tantrum or unhealthy food, view dining out as a great opportunity to teach kids good manners and good nutrition.
With these seven simple tips and ideas, bringing the family out to eat can be a healthy, relaxing, and memorable experience.
- Set boundaries first. With young kids who are new to dining out, explain that restaurants are a place where they need to use indoor voices and be polite. Get them excited about the delicious food they’ll be trying, and remind them that eating at adult restaurants is a privilege.
- Keep kids occupied. If kids are restless before dinner, don’t feel guilty about giving them a game to keep them busy, just make it educational! Check out the new Super Crew FoodLeap app, featuring healthy colorful foods from the National Restaurant Association and SuperKids Nutrition Inc.! It’s a great way to teach kids that healthy eating is fun and delicious – and might make them more likely to eat their veggies during the meal. You can download the free app on iPhones and iPads through the Apple app store.
- Give them healthful restaurant options. There are many restaurants serving up better-for-you menu items. Expose your children to the right influences from an early age so that they know what types of restaurants to look out for when they’re on their own. By giving them options, you’re still empowering them with their choice while teaching them how to identify nutritious options. Check out a list of restaurants with healthier menus for kids by downloading the free Kids LiveWell app.
- Go for the doggie bag. Don’t be afraid to take home a doggie bag! Ask for a take home box at the beginning or end of the meal. Some people find that portioning out half to take home at the beginning of the meal helps with their self-control. Either way, it shows the family that it’s OK not to finish your meal and save it for a tasty lunch tomorrow.
- Celebrate Healthy Fare. More and more restaurants are placing healthy food at the center of the plate. Find a spot in your area that prides itself on serving fresh, seasonal, plant-based, healthy, or farm-to-table cuisine. Encourage your kids to try a meatless meal when dining out, and aim for 2-3 meatless meals a week. Use the healthy protein tracker to meet your family’s goal. The whole family will enjoy the nourishing and beautifully plated options.
- Split the banana split. If you’re craving something sweet, have the family split a dessert, instead of everyone ordering their own.
- Side with Salad. Even the most indulgent options can be made lighter with a side of salad or veggies. Going out for pizza? Just get one pie and order a big Italian salad to share with dressing on the side. Is chicken lo mein the family favorite? Order it with extra veggies or with steamed veggies on the side. This will help you fill up without the extra calories, fat, sodium, and sugar. See these healthy dining out tips.
Cancer Prevention Month is a great time to make it easier than ever for you and your family to make a habit of choosing healthy, cancer-protective foods for those times you wander into the kitchen looking for a little bite to eat or need a quick meal.
Starting with your refrigerator and freezer, re-stocking and rearranging can make all the difference in what you choose. Follow these five steps and you and your family will be on the road to healthier eating and lower cancer risk.
- Fill your freezer with easy-prep veggies and fruit: Frozen greens, peas, corn and other veggies are simple to steam for a quick side at dinner. Mix frozen fruit chunks and berries for a colorful and healthful dessert or smoothie. Ditch the frozen fries and make room for bags of convenient, affordable frozen fruits and veggies.
- Swap out refined “white” grains with cancer-fighting whole grains: Keep whole grain wraps, pitas and sliced bread in the freezer to make a quick sandwich or use the pita or a whole-wheat crust for a healthy homemade pizza. And, instead of white rice, stock up on already cooked frozen brown rice – super convenient as a base for veggie stir-fry or stew.
- Stock up on carrots, celery, bell pepper, apples and oranges: Produce items like these are cost effective and have minimal waste. Cut up those veggies and fruits, clear off your top fridge shelf and put them on a tray front and center. Place your favorite dip there too, so when you and your kids open the fridge door, you can easily grab a veggies and fruit snack.
- Feature creative healthy beverages and ditch the sugary drinks: Sugary beverages contribute to obesity, a cause of 10 types of cancer. You can replace sodas and other sweet drinks with a couple pitchers or bottles of water – plain and sparkling, along with plain black, green or herbal teas. As a family, experiment adding in fruits like lemon, lime or orange slices, frozen berries, a splash of 100% juice or fresh herbs like basil, mint or ginger slices. Make flavored ice cubes with juice, tea or chopped fruit.
- Use see-through containers for healthy ingredients: Next to the plain yogurt, keep leftover canned fruit chunks, sunflower seeds, nuts and other fruit in see-through containers to inspire a colorful yogurt parfait. Put the peanut butter jar, hummus container and leftover chicken where it’s easy to see and grab.
Now that your fridge and freezer are stocked and ready to go, try these ideas for quick and affordable meals and snacks:
Winter Veggie Pita Pizzas (and other recipes)
Get your free Cancer Prevention Action Planner for 30 steps to better health
AICR Healthy Kids