We all know that eating a variety of foods is important to promoting growth and establishing good nutritional habits for the entire family. But if you have a picky eater in your household, mealtime can be a source of frustration and battles.
Fortunately, most kids get the proper nutrition in their diets throughout the day. Children’s taste buds and food preferences mature over time, so introducing new foods can take time and patience.
Picky eaters beware – here are some tips to encourage your children to try new foods.
- Try and try again. It may take up to 10 times of trying a new food before your child likes it. It is normal for children to be cautious at first.
- Involve your child in choosing foods at the grocery store. Trying new foods is more fun for children when they pick them.
- Let your child help prepare the food. Whether it’s stirring the ingredients, cracking an egg or washing vegetables, let your child become familiar with the new food. As you prepare it together, you and they can talk about the color, shape and texture of the food.
- Try one new food at a time. Don’t overwhelm your child with too many new foods at once. Make small changes and try serving new foods alongside some of their favorite, more familiar foods. Broccoli may be more appealing if it is served with a side of macaroni and cheese.
- Minimize distractions. Turn off the TV, don’t allow toys during meals and eat at a table.
- Don’t force your child to eat. Respect their preferences. Children sometimes do not like to eat food they have never seen before. Keep serving the food to your child. As they become more familiar with it, they may decide to taste it.
- Get creative with preparing new foods in different ways. If your child doesn’t like cooked carrots, try serving it with a low-fat dip such as ranch dressing or hummus. Another option is to purée fruits and vegetables and add them into casseroles or other prepared foods. For example, add chopped vegetables into sauces or top cereals with fruit.
- Set a good example. If the adults in the family avoid eating a variety of foods at the table, then it really shouldn’t surprise you that your little shadows are following the example that you are setting. With fast foods so readily available, it is only logical that healthier options are easy to pass up.
- Don’t be a short-order cook: Serve everyone the same meal. If everyone is eating the same thing as the rest of the family, it becomes easier for children to model after healthy choices.
Meal time should be about spending time together as a family, not a battleground over what’s on the plate. However, if you are concerned that your child’s eating habits are compromising his or her growth or health, consult your pediatrician or a registered dietitian.
Research shows children who eat healthy in their early years will carry those habits into their adulthood. Keep trying, be patient and eventually your child will surprise you.
By March, many people find their good resolutions for healthy eating and exercise have fallen by the wayside. Statistics show that just six months after the New Year, more than half of those who made resolutions have broken them. Fortunately, you can still resolve to change; it is never too late to renew your commitment to improving your health.
If you have fallen back into your old habit of grabbing a quick doughnut or pastry treat early in the morning for convenience, remind yourself one doughnut contains more than 300 calories and is high in carbohydrates, fats and sugars. That one seemingly innocent treat can send your blood sugar soaring.
Your body may feel a sudden energy surge, but this will be spent quickly. Then your system will go through a rebound that can make you feel extremely tired and out of sorts.
This is the beginning of a seesaw effect in your body that is often fueled by snack foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. Remember how difficult it was to balance a seesaw perfectly on the playground? This balancing act is what you are forcing your body to do when you eat foods that contain no real nutrition, but are heavily loaded with unhealthy fats, sugars and simple carbohydrates.
So just exactly what do you need to eat if you want to get back on the path to good nutrition and health? For starters you need to avoid fad diets and stay clear of foods filled with empty calories, sugars and fats.
Here are a few basic guidelines to get you on the right track.
- Opt for a dietary program that is packed with whole grains, fruits, veggies as well as some healthy fats and oils.
- Be sure your daily meals contain good carbohydrates such as whole grains; do not eliminate all carbohydrates from your diet.
- Include plenty of fiber by eating a variety of fruits, veggies and whole grains.
- Choose lean, healthy protein sources such as poultry, nuts, fish and beans.
- Limit saturated and trans fats; choose oils that come from nuts, fish and plant sources.
- Select calcium-rich foods such as skim or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese and vegetables.
- Add color to your plate by choosing a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Limit your use of salt and enjoy the rich, luscious flavors of the foods or add salt-free seasonings to enhance natural flavors.
- Plan ahead by creating a healthy shopping list or selecting restaurants that offer nutritious selections.
- Track your meals, exercise and medical information online or through a food diary such as the Get Fit Lee program, a local health initiative challenging Lee County residents to collectively lose one million pounds of body fat, GetFitLee.com.
Often, making changes slowly can help you be more successful in creating new habits. Try incorporating one or more of these recommendations into your lifestyle each week. Over time, you will find that these nutritious choices will give you more fuel for your day and help improve your chances of successfully reaching your goals.
Everyone has heard it at some point in their lives – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Perhaps if you are awake enough to wrap your mind around a few important pieces of information, the concept of eating a balanced breakfast will be much easier for you to swallow.
Sure, a doughnut filled with luscious strawberry jelly might tempt your taste buds, but are those empty calories and tons of carbohydrates really worth the effort? Even if you try to balance your breakfast plate by adding a glass of refreshing cold milk, you will not tip the scales toward the “healthy breakfast” side.
The hours that pass between the time you go to bed and the time you wake up give your body the opportunity to rest, but they also leave your stomach virtually empty. So by rushing out the door and into the busy day ahead, you are leaving your body without the proper fuel it needs to perform at its optimum level.
Imagine how much easier it would be to run to the next staff meeting, focus on that important sales presentation or meet that afternoon deadline if you had all of the enduring energy that a healthy breakfast will provide.
Breakfast gives your body the energy it needs to sustain activity throughout the day. Research has found people who skip breakfast often feel more tired, irritable and restless in the morning. On the other hand, those who do eat breakfast have a better attitude toward work, higher productivity and enhanced ability to handle tasks that require memory.
Breakfast eaters also have more strength and endurance and better concentration and problem-solving ability. Plus, breakfast helps you reach your recommended number of vitamins and nutrients. A whole-grain cereal with milk and citrus juice can provide 100 percent of the vitamin C, 33 percent of your calcium, thiamin and riboflavin and a good supply of fiber, iron and folate.
Although the idea of waking up a few minutes earlier each day to prepare and enjoy a healthy breakfast might be completely out of the question, there are some great “to go” options. It’s important to plan ahead so that you have some nutritious items on hand that you can quickly combine to create a well-balanced and delicious morning meal that is light on the carbohydrates and calories but heavy on the “health and nutrition.”
By using a well-balanced combination of high fiber and protein, complex carbohydrates and low-fat items, you will not only feel energized and satisfied for longer periods of time, but you will also be adding important nutrients that your body requires to stay healthy.
Whip up an omelet using nutritious egg whites, diced onions and bell peppers, a light sprinkle of sea salt and cracked black pepper with a side of tomato salsa. Make a steaming bowl of oatmeal and toss in some fresh berries or a handful of chopped walnuts, a few raisins and a touch of cinnamon.
For the “to-go” option, prepare it the night before so that you can simply grab it from the fridge and be on your way. Portion out a few slices of lean meat or a serving of tuna packed in spring water, a slice of low-fat cheese, a handful of whole-wheat crackers and fresh fruit for a breakfast-on-the-go that is as good for your taste buds as it for your health.
Regardless of the combinations you choose to use, remember that you should stick with a good balance of ingredients for a healthy and satisfying breakfast that will keep your tummy happy, calm your food cravings and give you the energy and endurance that will make you feel as though you are ready to go the distance instead of running out of fuel just an hour or two after finishing your meal.