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5 ways to help your grandchild be healthy and happy

Tracy Woolrich's picture
Small changes can bring about big results in a child's nutriton

As a parent, grandparent or caregiver to a young child, there is a lot you can do to help obtain and maintain health in the precious life in your care. According to the National Institute of Health, nearly 30% of all children aged 5-11 are considered to be overweight or obese. Sometimes the smallest of changes can bring about the biggest of results.

A trip to grandma’s house is always good for a treat or two. There is nothing like a warm cookie out of the oven and a cold glass of milk to make a grandchild smile. But is it possible that we are providing too many treats to our little ones? Maybe we need to rethink our choices.

Reward system
Don’t use food as a reward. I am sure we all grew up being told that if we ate everything on our plate we could have dessert. By doing this however, we are encouraging a child to possibly overeat. In addition we are giving them the message that the fish and vegetables on the plate are not as worthy in comparison to the prize of the dessert. It is better to use other things as a reward for good eating such as stickers or opportunity to play a game or take a walk after dinner together.

The kitchen in closed
I heard this phrase growing up and I never felt deprived. When dinner was done and the dishes were cleaned and put away it was lights out. It is not necessary to keep your kitchen open as if it were a 24 hour diner. There should be set times for meals and healthy snacks and only under special circumstances should additional food be available. Stop the swinging door on the refrigerator. By doing this you are providing the message that you eat to live and not visa versa. A light bedtime snack like a piece of fruit or peanut butter and crackers is fine, Reheating and eating a pizza however is never a good idea before going to bed.

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Let the water flow
Cut calories by reducing sugary drinks. Soda, sports drinks and even fruit juice adds a lot of unwanted calories. Fruit should be eaten as whole fruit or canned fruit in natural juice. The fiber is healthy and nutritious. If water is not the child’s thing, try using one of the new fruit infusion bottles that are available in some local drug and department stores. It allows you to place sliced fruit in the center of the bottle and the water flows over it and lightly flavors it.

Make health convenient
Ask any dieter and they will tell you that one of the best ways to lose weight is to put nutritious foods where it is easy to see. The same goes with feeding children. Keep the healthy food on the counter and in the front of the refrigerator. For a handy snack, keep cut up fruits and vegetables like carrots or orange slices in small zip lock bags in the refrigerator. Make it quick and easy. Keep the higher calorie foods in the back and out of sight. Better yet, don’t buy them to begin with!

Take the time to teach
Children are like sponges. Teach them the difference between simple carbohydrates like cake and candy and complex ones like brown rice and whole wheat bread. Make a game out of reading the labels on canned goods to see the nutritional value. This is especially true with reading sodium. Encourage lower sodium versions of soup and canned vegetables. Explain the reasons for food choices you are serving. It is never too early to teach good nutrition.

Make it colorful
Allow the child to help you prepare dinner. See if they can fit as many colors of the rainbow into a meal. Soon you will see that a hot dog and chips is not nearly as colorful as ripe red tomatoes, green luscious lettuce, bright orange sweet potatoes and beautiful pink Salmon. Blueberries and purple grapes for dessert would be grand. The more colorful the meal, the more likely you are to ingest the vitamins and minerals your body needs to be healthy.

Take home message
Enjoy the time with your children and grandchildren. Add an activity into their schedule with you. It is better that they jump rope, ride a bike or shoot hoops than play video games. While they are at it, why not join the fun? Together you can all become happier and healthier that you could ever imagine.

National Institute of Health