Focusing on Kids' Nutrition
Shopping smart, cooking healthy meals, and making nutrition fun can be great ways to boost children’s health.
It's important to focus on healthful eating and active lifestyles for children and families. Publix registered dietitian nutritionists can provide expert advice on healthy eating and physical activity for children and families. The nutritional health of our nation's children is concerning. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
Not only are children eating too many empty calories from solid fats and added sugars, they are also missing out on many of the key nutrients they need for optimal growth and development. As children head back to school, try to reinforce smart shopping, healthy cooking, and eating right within your whole family.
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Supermarkets are a great place to teach children about nutrition. Educate kids about nutrition so that they'll be empowered to make the right decisions about health later.
- Create a shopping list together. Start with the items you need, ask kids what they want to add to the list, and make them responsible for finding the items in the store.
- Discuss where food comes from. Give them the backstory on vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein.
- Pick out produce. Encourage children to try one new fruit or vegetable. Talk about the food’s colors, shapes, and textures.
- Check out the Better Choice tags. Especially for kid-friendly foods such as cereal, yogurt, crackers, and granola bars. Using published resources such as the most recent USDA Guidelines for Americans, Publix dietitian nutritionists assess groups of similar products (cereals or soups, for example). We identify those products that are a better choice: that contain more of the nutrients you need, like fiber, and less of the things you don’t need, like saturated fat, or added sodium, or added sugars.
- Read food labels together. This not only helps kids understand nutrition concepts, but also gives them a chance to practice reading skills, too.
Making Cooking Fun
Make meals together. Children are more likely to eat foods they have helped prepare. Have your children choose one recipe to make together. Depending on the ages of your children, they may be able to help out with various tasks such as washing fruits and vegetables, measuring ingredients, or making simple recipes.
- Cut food into fun shapes with cookie cutters.
- Set up a trail mix bar, and let your child make his or her own personalized snack. Purchase whole grain, low-sugar cereal, dried fruit, and unsalted nuts.
- Make smoothies with fat-free or low-fat yogurt, or milk with fruit pieces and crushed ice. Use fresh, frozen, canned, and even overripe fruit. Try bananas, berries, peaches, or pineapple. If you freeze the fruit first, you can even skip the ice.
- Whip up a quick dip for veggies with yogurt and seasonings such as herbs or garlic. Serve with raw vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower. Fruit chunks go great with a yogurt and cinnamon or vanilla dip.
- Cut up bite-size pieces of fruits or vegetables—make it fun by serving them on a stick. Assemble chunks of melon, apple, orange, and pear on skewers for a fruity kabob. For a raw veggie version, use vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, squash, sweet peppers, or tomatoes.
- Set up a pizza-making station in the kitchen. Use whole-wheat English muffins, bagels, or pita bread as the crust. Let kids choose from tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, and cut vegetables or fruit for toppings. Warm the pizzas in the oven and enjoy.
Even though a wide variety of nutritious foods are available, kids aren’t getting enough of the foods and nutrients that they need. As a result, dietary intake of several nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, are inadequate. Children need to include more foods in their diet such as low-fat or fat-free dairy, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Single-serve low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt containers are a great addition to a packed lunch.
- Make a dip out of yogurt for fruit and vegetables.
- Keep low-fat string cheese or cheese cubes on hand for a nutritious snack.
- Try different ways of preparing vegetables for your kids. If they don’t like cooked broccoli, try serving it raw with a dip.
- Shred carrots or zucchini into meatloaf, casseroles, quick breads, and muffins.
- Children often prefer foods served separately. So, rather than mixed vegetables, try serving two vegetables separately.
- Set a good example for children by eating fruit every day with meals or as snacks.
- Keep fruit in a bowl in a prominent place in the kitchen or on a shelf at eye-level in the refrigerator so it is visible.
- For a quick and easy snack, cut up fresh fruit for snacks or buy pre-cut Publix fruit salad.
- Swap out white bread for whole wheat, and go for brown rice over white.
- Let children select and help prepare a whole grain side dish.
- Teach older children to read the ingredient list on cereals or snack food packages, and choose those with whole grains at the top of the list.