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15 Ways Parents Can Present Good Nutrition to Children

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Nutrition tips for National Nutrition Month

March brings the excitement of spring, festive holidays and of course, National Nutrition Month. The goal of National Nutrition Month, which is to take pause and think about the connection between nutrition, our health and wellness, is very much aligned with the renewal that comes this time of year. The 2013 theme, "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day," provides an ideal message for parents to share with their children and help guide them toward making healthier food choices. Here are 15 ways parents can present good nutrition and fun foods to their children.

1. Understand the theme

“Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day” provides ideal food for thought (yes, pun intended) about how we approach healthy eating. Too often, we try to fit our life into healthy eating instead of making healthy eating work for us. When it comes to feeding our children, we need to meet them where they are at. This may mean helping our child incorporate at least one more glass of milk into their day even though the goal may be three. It means not taking away their favorite foods but rather helping them balance these foods with those that they may be less excited to eat. It means understanding that parties, sleepovers and other events are going to happen and teaching our kids how to have a nutritious day any way.

2. More on keeping those favorite foods

Eating well doesn’t have to mean giving your favorite foods- no matter what they are. In fact, keeping your favorite foods around may just be the key to following a better diet for the long run. Of course, depending on what the foods are, you may have to establish if they are something you can eat every day or only sometimes.

3. Sometimes vs Everyday

Ideally we avoid the terms “good” and “bad” when we are talking about food because if say a food is bad then, we may feel bad for eating it. Rather, it is important to explain to children that there are some foods we eat “every day” because they make us big and strong and give us all of the energy we need to have a fun and busy day. Remind them too, that there are foods that we only want to eat “sometimes” because they are low energy foods that don’t help us grow to be big and strong.

4. Aim for the rainbow

If you want to change something about your family’s diet then, the rainbow is a good place to start. Use it to guide you toward choosing an array of healthful foods from red tomatoes to brown whole wheat bread. You can even track the foods your children choose on a color wheel. It may be just what you need to help them try Brussels sprouts or purple potatoes!

5. Make it good

We put effort into a perfectly prepared entrée and may even seek the ideal sweet ending to a special meal. But, when it comes to our veggies or whole grain sides we tend to go simple. If steamed veggies and plain brown rice aren’t cutting it for your family then, find a way to boost the flavor or offer a twist on a favorite like homemade sweet potato “tator tots”.

6. Involve the kids

Kids like to be part of the process of selecting recipes and preparing meals. While having them “help” in the kitchen may not be possible all of the time, it is an important thing to do once in awhile. As chefs, your children will be more likely to try something new and excited to taste their hard work.

7. Ten tries

At my son’s school they have something called a “no thank you helping”. The idea behind this is that you may not want to eat a portion but, you will at least politely try something. Since we need to try some foods 10-15 times to know we even like it, the “no thank you bite” is important.

8. Identify the role food is playing

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Every now and then, take pause to think about the role that food is playing for your children. Are they cruising through the kitchen for food when you know they are actually bored? Do they ask for a snack every time they get stuck on their homework to manage stress? If either sounds like your kids then, help them manage those moments without food.

9. Visit a farm or orchard

No question that bringing children to farms and orchards helps them understand where our food comes from and gets them excited about trying fresh produce. If you can’t get to a farm then look into farmers markets or other opportunities for the farm to come to you.

10. Teach them to balance their day

Ask your children what they had for lunch and let that guide dinner. Help your children learn how to balance their day so that it isn’t too carbohydrate rich or lacking in fruits or vegetables.

11. Cookie cutters and the like

While I wish it weren’t so, sometimes cute counts. Create fun shapes out of your child’s foods and they are more likely to eat it.

12. Increase dairy with make-your-own yogurt pops

As easy as it sounds, simply poke a Popsicle stick though a small yogurt cup and freeze. Your child will enjoy their creamy, frozen treat and won’t even realize it is good for them!

13. Trail mixes

A balanced snack is an ideal snack. Trail mixes are a great snack that your children are sure to love…and enjoy making too. Provide a selection of ingredients and let them make their own combinations.

14. Delicious drinks

While focusing on your family’s foods choices, be sure not to forget to monitor sugar and calories in their drinks too. Aim for nutritious or very low/no calorie options such as milk, water and flavored sparkling water.

15. Keep it fun

Remember that change comes over time and not over night. Patience counts when it comes to creating positive, lasting and sustainable improvements to our diet.

Written by Allison J. Stowell, Consulting Dietitian, MS, RD, CDN for Guiding Stars
As a Registered Dietician, Allison enables individuals to make positive, sustainable changes in their eating habits by stressing conscious eating, improving relationships with food and offering a non-diet approach for reaching and maintaining ideal body weight. She joins the Guiding Stars team to help people in a number of sectors (grocery, hospitals, schools and universities) to understand how to use the Guiding Stars nutrition navigation program to make healthier food choices.

About Guiding Stars
Since 2006, Guiding Stars has been leading the way in helping consumers make nutritious food choices and recently received a U.S. Patent for the Guiding Stars nutrition-rating algorithm. The Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program is a simple, easy-to-understand tool for making good nutrition choices and is designed to make a positive and lasting impact on public health. Guiding Stars is currently found in more than 1,700 supermarkets including Food Lion, Hannaford, Sweetbay, Homeland, Kings Super Market and Marsh Supermarkets. Guiding Stars has also expanded into public schools, colleges and hospitals and appears on the Shopper mobile iPhone application. Additional information can be found at www.guidingstars.com.