Healthy Eating for Children,Teens & Families
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By Kristen Schroeder-Brown, RN-BSN, CHES, CDE, Holy Cross Hospital, Community Outreach Department
Healthy habits are important to living a long and healthy life. Below are 6 healthy habits that children, teens and adults can engage in to help them achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Healthy Habit #1 – Always Eat Breakfast
It is important to always start the day with breakfast. A well-balanced breakfast consists of: protein, fruit, grains, and a vegetable. Make sure your grains are whole grains, some examples are: whole grain bread or oatmeal. Switch to 1% or skim milk, instead of 2% or whole milk. Try to change up the breakfast routine and try something new. If you are in a rush, take breakfast with you.
There are countless studies over the past 30 years that suggest eating a healthy well-balanced breakfast can improve memory and concentration, as well as boost your creativity and problem-solving skills. Additionally, eating breakfast everyday can help to raise test scores and improve work performance. There are many myths out there about breakfast. The most common myth is: “if I skip breakfast I will lose weight”. However, this statement is false. In multiple studies, the researchers have found that skipping breakfast places you at an increased risk of being overweight.
Healthy Habit #2 – Make Your Plate Colorful
Make sure your plate has a lot of color, by adding in fruits and vegetables. Try to aim for 2 servings of vegetables with every dinner. Make healthy smoothies using vegetables and fruits. Always have fruits and vegetables available for kids to eat.
Fruits and vegetables are important because they help the body to grow. There are a lot of benefits to eating more fruits and vegetables. For instance, eating more vegetables can help you heal when you are sick or can even help prevent you from getting sick in the first place. Fruits and vegetables can also give you the energy you need to play, study or work.
Healthy Habit #3 – Rethink Your Drinks
It is important to eliminate sweetened beverages. Drinks containing sugar can lead to tooth decay, weaker bones, and even type 2 diabetes. Additionally, drinking sweetened beverages, such as sodas, sports drinks, or energy drinks can cause you to gain weight and to crave even more sugar.
It is important to drink lots of water. Always carry water with you and make sure to drink it throughout the day. Save the sodas, sports drinks, or energy drinks for special occasions. Be careful with fruit juice; Even 100% fruit juice contains a lot of sugar. Instead of drinking juice, eat the fresh fruit, as it has more nutrients. Drink water or milk (1% or skim) at meals and snack time.
Healthy Habit #4 – Enjoy Meals Together
Studies have shown that families who eat regular meals together are more likely to do well in school, stay away from drugs and alcohol, and maintain a healthy weight. Family meals can be hard to arrange, but it is well worth it.
Schedule an appointment for family dinner. Have everyone help with the preparing and cooking of the food. Even young children can help with simple things like, pouring, mixing or washing foods if needed. Try to limit the amount of fast food. Try to eat meals together in the kitchen or dining room, so that you can enjoy each other’s company.
Healthy Habit #5 – Make Physical Activity Fun
Researchers suggest that children and teens need at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day. Regular physical activity can lead to better energy, stronger muscles, less stress, weight management, and can even reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes.
Allow for a lot of active time throughout the day. Have balls, jump ropes, or bikes around to remind children to keep moving. Engage in physical activity as a family. Walk each night after dinner or play tag in the yard. Go to a local park or recreation center. Stretch each day to help with flexibility. Do strength exercises at least two times a week, such as lifting weights or using a resistance band.
Healthy Habit #6 – Sleep Well
Studies have shown that most children, teens and adults do not get enough sleep. Researchers have found that lack of sleep may lead you to have more colds, behavioral issues, trouble with paying attention in school, problems with memory, and become overweight.
Know how much sleep everyone in the family needs. Typically every night, preschools need about 11 hours, children need about 10 hours, teens need about 9 hours, and adults need about 8 hours. It is important to make a routine and stick with it.
Kristen Schroeder-Brown, RN-BSN, CHES, CDE is a Certi ed Diabetes Educator in the Community Outreach Department of Holy Cross Hospital. She specializes in Diabetes Prevention and Diabetes Self-Management. She is also a Master Trainer Select and Lifestyle Coach for the National Diabetes Prevention Program. She holds a BS in Health Education and a second BS in Nursing.
By Kristen Schroeder-Brown, RN-BSN, CHES, CDE, Holy Cross Hospital, Community Outreach Department
Oftentimes we are told to eat healthy or make better choices about our food intake, but what does that really mean? The key to healthy eating is balance. Too much of any one item, including healthy items, can lead to possible health issues. Below are some tips and ideas on how you can incorporate healthy food choices into your family’s daily meals.
What Should My Plate Look Like?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) created a wonderful tool called My Plate, which helps to describe the five essential food groups. The five food groups are: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Protein and Dairy. When you look at the USDA My Plate, it breaks down the first four food groups into even quarters on the plate. In other words, ¼ of your plate should be fruits, ¼ of your plate should be vegetables, ¼ of your plate should be protein, and the other ¼ of your plate should be grains. The fifth food group, dairy, is shown off to the side of the plate.
Fruits and vegetables add color to your plate and provide your body with a bunch of nutrients. If your family is on a budget, fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are all good options. When you are purchasing frozen fruits and vegetables you want to make sure they are ‘flash frozen’ so you get all of the nutrients. Additionally, make sure there are no added fats, salt or sugars. When buying canned fruits, make sure they are in water or 100% juice. When buying canned vegetables, make sure there is a ‘no added salt’ label and rinse them well before cooking.
Proteins, or meats, also provide you with nutrients and keep you full longer. Examples of proteins include: chicken, turkey, fish, pork, ground beef, and beans. The proteins such as chicken, turkey and fish are considered healthier options, as they are leaner cuts of meat.
Grains are also known as starches or carbs. Examples of grains include: cereal, bread, pasta, rice, and tortillas. When selecting grains, be sure to make half of your grains whole grains. Whole grains help with digestion, are heart healthy and help to keep you fuller longer. When looking for whole grain products, be sure to check the label and make sure the first ingredient
listed starts with “whole”, such as whole grain or whole wheat.
Dairy helps to keep our bones strong. When looking at dairy products, it is best to select products that are fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk. If someone in your family is lactose-intolerant, try lactose-free milk.
This plate provides you with an idea of the recommended amount of each food group. You can make different dishes, such as soups or casseroles with all of these food groups represented in the same dish. You just want to be careful with the portion sizes of each ingredient.
What Should I Drink?
Water, water, and more water! Water is a product that does not have any added sugars or sweeteners. Sweetened beverages, such as juices and sodas, can fill us up so we don’t have an appetite for the food that is needed for our proper growth. Additionally, sweetened beverages can potentially increase your risk of developing other health issues, such as tooth decay and obesity.
Healthy Snack Ideas
Here are some great healthy snack options the whole family can enjoy.
• Sliced Vegetables
• Sliced Fruit
• Cheese Stick
• Low-Fat Yogurt
• Trail Mix
• Unsalted Nuts/Seeds
• Unsweetened Applesauce
• Dried Fruits
Just remember, snacks should not replace a meal. They should be used when hungry in between meals. Snack bags or small containers can be used to help portion out a healthy amount of a snack.
Additional Healthy Eating Tips:
• Make sure to get the entire family involved. Let them assist in selecting the meals for the week, shopping for the food, and even preparing the meals.
• Don’t be afraid to try new things.
• Take a family favorite dish and try to think of ways to make it healthier.
• Make your plate colorful, by adding various fruits and vegetables to your plate.
• Prep your food ahead to save on time. Doing things such as slicing washing veggies, cutting up fruits, and even pre-packaging your snacks can help you save time.
Kristen Schroeder-Brown, RN-BSN, CHES, CDE is a Certified Diabetes Educator in the Community Outreach Department of Holy Cross Hospital. She specializes in Diabetes Prevention and Diabetes Self-Management. She is also a Master Trainer Select and Lifestyle Coach for the National Diabetes Prevention Program. She holds a BS in Health Education and a second BS in Nursing.
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