Nutrition For Kids

Childhood nutrition was always very simple in the past. Kids generally ate when they were hungry and they were so active that you really didn't have to worry about them consuming too many calories or becoming overweight. There were of course rare exceptions, but if you go back to any time in this country prior to the 1980s, childhood obesity was pretty rare. I think many of us older than a certain age can remember back to school days when an overweight kid in class was pretty darn unusual.

Today the situation is strikingly different. As many as 1 in 5 of kids are overweight or obese. And in this country, around 2 in 3 adults are overweight or obese. Any plan of "self regulation" by kids is doomed to failure for at-risk kids. Letting kids eat anything and everything they want is a plan for absolute disaster and for the development of obesity.

One only has to look at the breakfast foods and the cereals marketed at children. The high calorie content and carbohydrate content make them immensely appealing to kids and also immensely successful at producing obesity. The increase in the calorie content of all kinds of meals, and especially fast food restaurant meals, in and of itself is a disastrous development for children who need to maintain a healthy weight. And yet there are many more causes of childhood obesity that make an affirmative plan for childhood nutrition so critically important. Among these is the major shift toward indoor computer-based and video activities for kids, when in the past they were outdoors burning more calories and using their muscles to a greater degree. Loss of funds for extracurricular activities, reduction of team sports and other opportunities, decrease and the perceived safety of our streets and outdoor areas have all contributed to the shift toward burning less calories.

But by far the worst culprits for children are the tremendous "perfect storm" of sophisticated designed foods geared toward kids, sophisticated advertising campaigns aimed at kids, and massive increases in calorie or carbohydrates in the meals that appeal to kids.

The net result is that if you were to leave kids to do as they had done decades ago, they will purely and simply become overweight in a short time. It is just simple math. They on average are burning fewer calories and they are on average consuming far more calories. More of the calories are carbohydrate calories. The net result is obesity.

So how to combat those forces? Well it starts with awareness of the problem and you have already made great progress just by visiting this page or reading this article. Then it begins with a healthy plan to focus on proper nutrition for kids and increased activities and exercise for kids. It takes an active effort. This will not happen by itself.

Top 10 Keys To Healthy Nutrition For Kids

  1. Stock the house with fresh fruits and vegetables.
  2. Kids may prefer their favorite brand of processed, highly focus-group tested, high fructose corn syrup stocked, high calorie cookies and cracker treats, but if the house is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, eventually some of them will get eaten, especially if you follow the rest of these steps!

  3. Rid the house of cookies, cakes, and treats.
  4. Okay, this sounds curmudgeonly but a house that is full of cookies and high carbohydrate snack items is a place where kids can go to find even more calories and even more carbohydrate calories. Keep in mind that they are already consuming way more than is healthy at school and at other meals. So limit those things to special occasions.

  5. Desserts are a special occasion.
  6. This means that we don’t serve cake and ice cream and other high carbohydrate, high calorie desserts after every meal, certainly not after lunches routinely, and not after dinner routinely either. Dessert can become a special occasion – do it once a week or twice a week. And if people insist on dessert, start serving fresh fruit.

  7. Fresh fruit instead of fruit juice.
  8. I think in the past we somehow imaged that a high carbohydrate pastry or bread product combined with a big tall glass of our favorite juice was a great way to start the day. Well it turns out just to be a great way to gain weight and develop obesity. Kids are much better off eating the whole fresh fruit rather than having glasses of juice. They are more likely to get all the nutrients and vitamins and less concentrated sugars.

  9. Provide breakfast every day.
  10. Many kids nowadays run out the door just like we parents do, without eating any breakfast. Studies show that if kids don't start the day with any breakfast at all, then they are more apt to eat low quality snacks and meals when they do get the chance. So every single day needs to start with a healthy breakfast.

  11. Read every label.
  12. What goes in your kids' bodies is mostly depicted right on the food label. It may be a little bit hard to understand because sometimes the food makers play games with the serving size, but if you start by examining the serving size and make sure that it makes sense to you (a box of crackers that looks like pretty good nutritional information except that the serving size is only two crackers would not be realistic, so you would have to multiply it by five or times 10). Begin understanding the quantities of carbohydrates, protein and fat that your child is taking in. In the overwhelming majority of cases in this country and in most countries around the world now, kids are taking in a much higher quantity and proportion of carbohydrate calories than ever before. Food manufacturers are right there providing very tasty and delicious high carbohydrate offerings that your kids love.

  13. Make fast food the exception
  14. Think of those high carbohydrate, high calorie "kid’s meals" like birthday cake. Because in terms of nutritional content, that is what they are. So would you serve a large helping of birthday cake to your son or daughter every day or twice a day or even several times a week? No, you should not. Think of those fast food meals with appealing kid’s items and French fries and shakes and sodas as a special exception.

  15. Be active.
  16. Each kid, no matter what, age has to do one physical outdoor or athletic activity daily, without exceptions. It is so important that it is worth diverting resources from other things to make sure that the kids continue to get physical activity regularly. Ideally they would be physically active seven days a week, 60 minutes a day. Athletic clubs, private sports teams, school competitive teams – there are many solutions.

  17. Rule of the house: Eat only at the table.
  18. There must be a new rule and start enforcing it immediately: Eating only occurs at the table in this household. That means no snacks in the play room, no dinners and treats in front of the TV. No meals in the bedroom, no cookies and late night snacks hidden under the pillow. When we eat, we enjoy eating and ideally we enjoy doing it with the family; but when the eating part is done, then it is time to focus on other activities. Mindlessly eating huge amounts of snacks, popcorn and goodies while watching TV and movies and reading books is a sure-fire way toward weight gain and diminished health. An alternative to this is to allow a low calorie popcorn or snack as a special occasion on "movie night" but not as a routine

  19. Find rewards for the kids other than food.
  20. This can be tough if you have gotten in the habit of celebrating the softball game by going to the fancy ice cream store. But you can come up with some great alternatives. New clothes, new games, digital music files, a round of pee wee golf with mom or dad, make-up or lip gloss, trips to the "kids fun zone," sleepover party with a best friend, or a new accoutrement for their bicycle/skateboard/musical instrument/science kit/collection. Be creative, you can do it.

    The Bonus Keys

  21. It's about habits.
  22. Much of what we do and what our kids do every day is about habits. Really in the final analysis, an after-school snack that consists of some slices of apple with string cheese and is not any less satisfying than a snack of a whole plate of cookies or brownies (okay, maybe a bit less if they are homemade), especially if you look at it over the course of a week, or a month or a year.

    Kids look to us for guidance and to set limits. Would most kids always prefer cake or cookies every time as an after school snack every day? Of course they would. Would they find any less satisfaction over the course of a week if instead they had a healthy snack with some sliced vegetables and fruits and peanut butter? Absolutely not. The habit of health starts right there at home.

  23. Set a great example.
  24. If you as a parent need to lose weight, then it is time to set your mind to it. It is time for the whole family in fact to focus on healthier eating and better living. Many years ago, it did not require quite such a huge effort, but times have definitely changed, and anything other than a serious attitude toward healthy eating is going to lead to serious weight gain and early health problems. So buckle down and prepare to fight for a better body and healthier lifestyle. That means family walks, more outdoor activities, cutting down on the carbs, desserts, portions and the extra helpings. You can do it!

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