03-02-2012 (Dayton, OH) -
Ever wonder what it means to “Get your plate in shape? March is National Nutrition Month and Dayton Children’s wants to inform parents of the importance of their child’s health. In order to get rid of poor eating habits, parents must encourage food with more nutritional value. With some easy alterations in a child’s diet, parents can help improve the obesity statistic and overall health of their child.
“This year's National Nutrition Month theme is “Get your plate in shape,” says Rachel Riddiford, manager, clinical dietetics work group, at Dayton Children's. “This year’s theme goes along with the nutrition guidelines that have replaced the familiar food pyramid. ‘Get your plate in shape’ encourages consumers to eat the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy each day. Teaching a child how to improve their eating habits is all about keeping the plate balanced with color and variety. Once the child has learned to balance the right foods, their bodies will grow stronger and organs will function smoother.”
Nutrition is important for everyone, but is especially important for kids. Nutrition is linked with a variety of developmental aspects and growth that could later affect their level of health as adults; instilling good nutritional value when choosing the right foods is crucial. Choosing the foods that parents allow their child to eat will allow them to partake in more activities while having fun doing so. Parents must serve as leaders in choosing the right foods for their kids because they unfortunately do not know enough about what exactly they are putting in their bodies. Providing them with good eating habits now will help them learn at an early age what’s necessary to grow big and strong.
Parents should try the following tips at home when choosing the rights foods for their child and deciding what to make for dinner:
- Explain to your kids that sweets are to be eaten in moderation and served as a treat
- Offer snacks such as celery and peanut butter which is a good source of fiber and protein
- Have fruits and vegetables in kids' view on the counter or in the fridge; pre-cut them to make it easier to grab and go
- Get kids involved in washing, chopping, and cooking fruits and vegetables. They'll love to eat what they prepare such as using cookie cutters to shape their healthy sandwich into fun shapes
- Be creative: Add fruits and vegetables to pancakes, cereal, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, pasta, tacos, and sandwiches
- Make sure to include food from 3-4 of the food groups by asking what the child would like at every meal (fruits and vegetables)
- Often packing a lunch is a good way to start a good nutritional diet for the child while still monitoring what they eat. Here are some lunch box tips:
o Leave a fun and healthy note in their lunch box
o Add dips to their fruits and veggies
o Offer half of a sweet potato with a sprinkle of brown sugar or even slice it into circular shapes
o Take advantage of tropical fruits such as mango slices or kiwi (easy to scoop out with a spoon)
“Shoot for 85 percent of snacks and meals to be made from foods high in nutrients and low in processing. If 85 percent is too high, increase it by 10 percent increments every month until you get there,” says Riddiford.
Parents are recommended to ask the following questions at their child’s next doctor’s appointment if they think their child isn’t getting enough fruit and vegetables:
- Ask your doctor about your child’s Body Mass Index (BMI). This measurement is based on your child’s height and weight.
- Ask where your child fits in on a typical growth chart. This chart compares your child’s BMI to other children the same age, and makes it possible to determine whether your child is overweight or obese.
- If it is determined that your child is overweight or obese, find out if your child is at risk for any of the diseases typically associated with childhood obesity such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep problems, frequent headaches, liver disease, and arthritis.
“Remember, your doctor is your partner in caring for your child,” says James Ebert, MD, physician at DaytonChildren’s, “It’s important that you ask your doctor about your child’s weight to determine if your child is at risk for obesity-related diseases.”
Parents can incorporate these healthy tips with an easy guideline Dayton Children’s recommends called the 5-2-1-0 formula. There's plenty of advice out there on how to help families choose the right foods, exercise more, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The guidelines in the 5-2-1-0 formula have been shown to help people prevent obesity, maintain a healthy weight, and improve their overall well-being.
- eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily
- limiting screen time to 2 hours (or less) a day
- getting 1 or more hours of physical activity every day
- drinking 0 sugary beverages
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