I find it very disturbing that, despite all of our concerns about American obesity and all of the physical health issues that go with it, we still have schools and parents that do not take responsibility for the nutrition of children, which is where our first education about nutrition begins!
Let me break it down for you, parents. You are your child’s first model of how to eat correctly and how to eat well. If you are inconvenienced by cooking, it does not excuse reliance on fast foods or artificial, processed products for the primary meals of your child. If you treat your body poorly, your child will do the same. Think of it this way. You work hard for your money, but consciously eating well is not just helping you; it is also helping your child. There are some easy changes you can make in your diet that would not take nearly as long as you think.
–Start buying and using whole wheat or multigrain pasta instead of the regular kind. There is not much cost difference, and it doesn’t really taste much different. Just be sure to make sure it is thoroughly cooked and that there is sufficient olive oil in your pot to avoid sticking.
–Make the switch from processed white bread to whole wheat or multigrain bread. (It’s SO much different!)
–Slowly take your whole milk down to 2% milk, then to 1% milk and finally to skim milk so that your child adapts to the new taste.
–Buy natural peanut butter that contains Omega 3’s and flax/linseed oil. The No-sugar or reduced sugar Smuckers jellies can also help you make those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches healthy!
–Try pureed carrots to add to your spaghetti sauces or even spinach, if your kid doesn’t object to the color green.
–Limit the meat intake on a given plate, but allow for seconds on the vegetables and whole-wheat bread.
–Offer fruit as dessert. Canned fruits in heavy syrup do little for your child. If you must buy canned, look for the ones canned in plain water.
–Find fat-free salad dressings to use in all kinds of yummy flavors. Experiment with different salad ingredients such as putting grapes, oranges, grapefruit or spinach leaves in the salad. Make it look pretty and inviting.
–Kids tend to like finger foods, so take the time to pull the grapes off of the stems for your kids or put together a little baggie of baby carrots or cucumber slices with some dressing.
–Some yogurts contain less sugar than others. Look for “natural” or “organic” yogurts that can aid your child in digestion and immunity. Gelatin is also good for the skin and is cheap to buy in little cups.
–Fat-free puddings are a good way for your child to get a chocolate fix without ice cream or candy bars.
–Don’t send your kid to school with money every day unless you are guaranteed that they will not be spending it on chips, chocolate and sodas from the vending machine. Look at the school’s lunch menu, and do not assume that the school is looking out for your child’s best nutritional interest. (You want to know how much salt and fat is in the “turkey chunks and gravy potatoes” dish? What about the mac and cheese or the chicken fingers?)
I hope that some of these tips help you out as parents. I also hope that some of you will also make some of these dietary changes. Parents, we need to stop abusing our bodies so that we can give more and be more for our kids. Waiting for an illness or a dysfunction in immunity to take place before making lifestyle changes is not good enough! Love your child by loving yourself!