It’s National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme is “Put your best fork forward.”
“Each us holds the tool to make healthier food choices,” says Becky Gonter-Dray, RD, CSP, LD, dietitian and “Activities to Zucchini” blogger at Dayton Children’s. “Making small changes over time can improve your child’s health and wellbeing now and for years to come.”
According to the Dayton Children’s 2014 Regional Pediatric Health Assessment, 41 percent of children in the Dayton region are overweight or obese. That’s a four percent increase from the previous study done in 2011. While there are many factors contributing to this epidemic, there are also many easy steps that parents can take in order to help develop a healthier lifestyle in their home.
“It is no surprise that kids are going to want to eat what they think tastes good,” says Gonter-Dray. “However, it can take up to 8-10 exposures of a new food for a person, including kids, to accept a new taste. Families should work together at trying new foods. You might surprise yourself by finding a new favorite food that is also a healthier option!”
While it can sometimes seem overwhelming knowing where to start, Gonter-Dray and the nutrition experts at Dayton Children’s suggest trying some of the following tips to ensure your kids are receiving a healthy meal that they also enjoy.
• Add extra virgin olive oil and/or vinegar to salads, fruits, vegetables, grain dishes and even to meat dishes. Experiment with flavored oils and vinegars.
• Grill fruit while you grill vegetables for meals. This may be something different — but, a fun science experiment for your family’s taste buds.
• Add fresh herbs to whatever you are eating. Herbs add flavor while not adding sodium. Growing herbs indoors gives you year-round access and can be a fun activity for kids. They will enjoy eating what they have planted and taken care of. If you aren’t able to grow your own, you can also look in your produce section for fresh herbs and baking section for dried options.
• Enjoy mixing and matching different flavors together. Try adding citrus to your leaf salad or add an avocado to a grain dish. Let your kids pick and choose from some healthy options what they want to experiment with. They may choose some interesting combinations but it allows them to be involved in the decision making process.
“Remember to also try to make mealtime fun,” says Gonter-Dray. “Allow your child to help with meal preparation. You may also want to try making child-friendly sandwiches or using fun plates/cups and utensils. Whatever you do, try to take the stress out of meal time. Divert the child’s attention to how fun the meal can really be.”
This look at a children’s health or safety issue comes from Dayton Children’s Hospital. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.