by Anna Abdollahi, RI
Good nutrition and exercise are key components to healthy physical and mental development in children. As caregivers you want to ensure your children have the best possible start in life. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, or older siblings below are six tips to maximize your little one’s health:
1. Eat more meals at home
With a little planning and preparation, eating at home can save money, calories, and cultivate bonds with children of all ages. Make sure to put away cell phones and tablets in order to focus on good food and conversation.
2. Get enough fruits and veggies
Eating fruits and vegetables everyday provides children with nutrients vital to overall health and maintenance of their bodies. Mix in a variety of colors to provide an array of vitamins and minerals. Children should be offered 5 servings of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
3. Tricks for fussy eaters
There are many techniques to approach picky eaters. Do not be discouraged; sometimes children (of all ages) need to be offered a food over 10 times before they try it! Set a good example by enjoying a variety of foods. Make meals and snacksfun by having your child help with preparation, giving meals funky names, and shaping snacks!
4. Focus on water and milk
Water and milk are the only two beverages our body actually requires to meet daily nutrition needs. Milk contains calcium that helps bones grow strong and teeth healthy. Juice, on the other hand, can add extra calories without the fiber that is found in the whole fruit. Drinking too much juice may also contribute to excess weight gain and tooth decay. If you are serving juice to your children, keep it 100% fruit juice and limit to 4 – 6 ounces a day.
5. Eat with MyPlate every day
MyPlate is the current nutrition guide published by the USDA that illustrates the five food groups (vegetable, fruit, grain, protein and dairy), which are the building blocks for a healthy diet. Teach your children that all of the food groups MyPlate displays should be eaten every single day.
6. Increase playtime while limiting screen time
The average child spends more time watching TV, and less time running and playing. It is important to find creative ways to exercise and play for at least 60 minutes every day. The maximum amount of time children should spend per day watching TV, playing video games or surfing the web is two hours. Children under 3 are not recommended to have any screen time.
Keep in mind that you are a role model; make sure to set good examples for your child. Express concerns about your child’s development to their pediatrician and contact a dietitian for individualized counseling on eating concerns. Visit eatrightri.org to find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in Rhode Island.
Anna Abdollahi is a Registered Dietitian working for Woonsocket Head Start Child Development Association. She is a member of the Rhode Island Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at eatrightri.org.