The childhood obesity epidemic in American has reached alarming levels. What is perhaps even more shocking is that, while many of our children are eating too much of many unhealthy foods, at the same time they are missing out on many of the key nutrients they need for optimal growth and development, resulting in children who are undernourished.
Often low in fruits and vegetables, approximately 16 percent of children and adolescents' total caloric intakes came from added sugars. However, with a few strategies, parents can help kids meet their nutritional needs, which will support their growth and encourage healthy body weights as their minds and bodies grow.
Smarter Snacking: Healthy snacks can help pack extra nutrients into your children's daily eating habits that they might be missing at meals. When your growing child requests a snack, choose foods from the key food groups, such as whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit or vegetables slices dipped in salsa.
Be Aware of Liquid Calories: Sugary beverages are often loaded with calories and have few nutrients, if any, which unfortunately replace nutrient-packed foods or beverages for many children. Encourage children to drink water, low- or fat-free milk or 100% fruit juices rather than soda, fruit drinks or other sugary beverages. If your child is already hooked on soda, encourage them to choose alternatives such as seltzer with some lemon or lime, or allow soda as a special and only occasional treat.
Include Protein-Rich Foods: With the ability to provide energy, support growth and repair muscles and other body tissues, protein should be included in each of your meals. Protein-rich foods include meat, beans, low- or fat-free dairy products, and some grains and vegetables.
Choose Fruit First: While 100% fruit juices provide many nutrients and antioxidants, juice often lacks fiber which helps fill you up. Encourage your children to choose fruit first, and to also drink 100% fruit juice.
Since nutritional needs for kids differ based upon age, gender and activity level, learn more about meeting your child's nutritional needs by working with a registered dietitian—the food and nutrition expert. Locate a registered dietitian in your area »
For more tips on choosing healthier foods that your children will love, visit www.kidseatright.org.
Reviewed January 2013