Monthly Archives: July 2016
Nearly half of all American families regularly skip breakfast. Is your family one of them? When it comes to getting your children to school, a healthy breakfast is just as important as gym shoes and sharp pencils.
How Breakfast Betters Your Child
Breakfast has been associated with everything from:
- Better memory
- Better test scores
- Better attention span to decreased irritability
- Healthier body weights
- Improved overall nutrition
Rise & Dine
It’s easy to see how breakfast has come to qualify as one of the nutritional challenges of parenthood. Whether it’s your own parental time constraints or your child’s busy schedule, getting the whole family ready to set off to child care and/or school in the morning, play dates, or any of a whole host of other common early-in-the-day commitments, breakfast is often neglected.
If the words “slow” and “leisurely” don’t exactly describe your morning routine, we’d like to suggest that you commit a little extra time and effort to protecting the nutritional integrity of your child’s morning meal.
Breakfast-Made-Easier Tips for Parents
Whether you opt for a simple breakfast or a more elaborate one, any effort to make it nutritious is better than no breakfast at all. Whether that means a glass of low-fat milk and a piece of wheat toast or an all-out feast, the following breakfast-made-easier tips will hopefully help you rise to the occasion and overcome some of the most common barriers to a healthy breakfast.
- Schedule accordingly. While we’d like to remind you that sitting down and sharing family meals is beneficial, we’re willing to bet that sitting down to a leisurely breakfast with your kids each morning simply isn’t realistic for most of you. What is realistic, however, is making sure you carve out enough time to allow your child to eat without pressure. Especially for infants and toddlers, this includes factoring in enough time in the morning’s schedule to allow for both assisted- and self-feeding.
- Fix breakfast before bedtime. In other words, plan ahead. As with just about all other aspects of feeding your child, a little advance planning can go a long way toward having a wider range of healthy foods on hand. Simple examples such as hard-boiling eggs ahead of time or having your child’s favorite cold cereal dished out the night before to pair with some presliced fresh fruit can mean the difference between time for a balanced breakfast and running out the door without it (or, as is often the case, with some commercially packaged and far less nutritious alternative in hand).
- Grab-and-go breakfasts. If the reality of your schedule is such that you and your kids routinely run out the door with no time to spare in the morning, then try stocking up on a variety of nutritious foods that you can prepare and prepackage for healthier grab-and-go convenience. In addition to hard-boiled eggs, consider other fast favorites like sliced apples, homemade muffins, or a bagel with low-fat cream cheese.
- Make sure sleep is on the menu. Applying the age-old adage, make sure your child is early enough to bed that she rises early enough to allow time for breakfast. No matter what their age, tired kids tend to be cranky, and cranky kids are far less likely to sit down for a well-balanced breakfast. Not only that, but sleep has proven itself to be a crucial ingredient in children’s overall health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all children between 9 and 11 years old are screened for high blood cholesterol levels due to the growing epidemic of obesity in children.
In addition, the AAP recommends cholesterol testing for the following groups of children:
- Those whose parents or grandparents have had heart attacks or have been diagnosed with blocked arteries or disease affecting the blood vessels, such as stroke, at age 55 or earlier in men, or 65 or earlier in women
- Those whose parents or grandparents have total blood cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL or higher
- Those whose family health background is not known (eg, many adopted children), or those who have characteristics associated with heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, or obesity
For children in these categories, their first cholesterol test should be after 2 years but no later than 10 years of age.
A child may have high cholesterol for a variety of reasons such as obesity, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, or an underactive thyroid. If an initial test shows high cholesterol, your pediatrician will check your child’s blood again at least 2 weeks later to confirm the results. If it is still high, the doctor will also determine if your child has an underlying condition.
A recent government report indicated that there is good evidence that children with cholesterol problems become adults with high cholesterol. So it is important to monitor the cholesterol of children who may have an increased risk of elevated cholesterol.
When it comes to raising an adventurous eater, it is not just about coaxing kids to eat their veggies. Bringing up a child who can enjoy a cantaloupe as much as a cupcake takes patience and persistence, but it does not have to feel like a chore.
Kids may need to have frequent joyful experiences involving food to overcome the anxiety they may have around tasting the unfamiliar. Over time, cooking with your children can help build that confidence—and provide rich sensory experiences.
- Engage other senses. For a hesitant eater, tasting an unfamiliar food can sometimes be intimidating. You can help your child explore foods when cooking using other senses besides taste. This helps to build positive associations with food. Kneading dough, rinsing vegetables, and tearing lettuce all involve touching food and being comfortable with texture. The complex flavors we experience when eating food come from both taste sensations from the tongue AND smelling with the nose. While cooking with new ingredients, some children may feel too overwhelmed to taste. If this happens, you can try suggesting smelling a food first; this may provide a bridge to tasting in the future.
- Use cooking to raise smart kids. There are so many lessons that can be taught while cooking. Math concepts like counting, measurement, and fractions naturally unfold when navigating a recipe with kids. Explaining how food changes with temperature or how certain foods can help our body be healthy provide great lessons in science. While cooking with your child, practice new vocabulary as you describe how food looks, feels, and tastes. Following a recipe from start to finish helps build the skills for planning and completing projects.
- Make cooking part of the family culture. The family meal can start in the kitchen as you cook together. Family meal preparation is an opportunity to celebrate your cultural heritage by passing down recipes. Help your kids find new, seasonal recipes to add to your repertoire and family cookbook. Cooking together and prioritizing health over the convenience of processed food are great ways to lead by example and help your children buy into a culture of wellness. Building daily and seasonal traditions around cooking together helps strengthen your family’s commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
- Keep it safe. Teach kids the importance of staying safe while cooking by showing them how to hold kitchen tools safely, how to use oven mitts to protect hands from heat, and how to turn appliances on and off safely. Always supervise children when cooking to ensure they are sticking with safe and age-appropriate tasks. The best way to keep cooking safe is to know your child’s abilities and his or her stage of development. A four-year-old child, for example, may not be ready to sauté vegetables over a hot pan, but may have the fine motor skills to rinse fruits or tear salad leaves. Keeping safety in mind, it is not difficult to get kids—even toddlers—involved in the kitchen.
- Ask for input. Children feel more included in mealtime when they are asked to be a part of meal preparation. Collaborate with your kids when selecting recipes for main dishes or sides. Let them help you make the shopping list and find groceries in the store or farmers market. When cooking together, let children offer a critique of the foods you are preparing. Together you can decide what ingredients you should add to enhance the flavor. Talk about how people enjoy different tastes, and share your preferences with each other. Letting children be “in charge” of details like how to set the table will help them feel invested in mealtime.
Noncaloric sweeteners, also called no- and low-calorie sweeteners, or sugar substitutes, add sweetness to foods and beverages without adding calories. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, foods and beverages sweetened with noncaloric sweeteners can be incorporated into a healthy eating plan.
Noncaloric sweeteners can help make reduced-calorie foods and beverages taste better, which can help in long-term weight maintenance.
Check Food Labels
Keep in mind that products containing noncaloric sweeteners may not be calorie-free or fat-free. Check the food labels for nutritional information.
Where We Stand
Due to limited studies in children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has no official recommendations regarding the use of noncaloric sweeteners.
- Fat, Salt and Sugar: Not All Bad
- Allergies and Hyperactivity
- Healthy Active Living for Families
- Preventing Tooth Decay
- eatright.org (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)
Children (as well as adults) often use food for reasons other than to satisfy hunger. Children often eat in response to their emotions and feelings.
If your child seems hungry all the time, use the following tips to get a better idea of what is really going on.
What Triggers Hunger?
If your child is eating 3 well-balanced meals and 1 snack a day but still claims to be hungry, there may be other reasons beyond hunger that make him or her want to eat.
What You Can Do
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your child sometimes reach for food when experiencing any of the following?
- Does your child eat at times other than regular mealtimes and snacks? Is your child munching at every opportunity?
- Do you reward your child with food (does an A on a test sometimes lead to a trip to the ice cream shop)? This can inadvertently contribute to your child’s obesity.
- When your child is doing things right, do you tell him or her? Words of approval can boost a child’s self-esteem. They can also help keep a child motivated to continue making the right decisions for health and weight.
- How are you speaking to your child? Is it mostly negative? Is it often critical? It’s hard for anyone, including children, to make changes in that kind of environment.
If you suspect your child is eating out of boredom, you may need to steer him or her toward other activities as a distraction.
What You Can Do
- Make sure your child is eating 3 well-balanced meals and 1 snack a day. This will prevent feelings of hunger between meals.
- Help your child choose other things to do instead of eating, such as:
- Walking the dog
- Running through the sprinklers
- Playing a game of badminton
- Kicking a soccer ball
- Painting a picture
- Going in-line skating
- Planting a flower in the garden
- Flying a kite
- Joining you for a walk through the mall (without stopping at the ice cream shop)
- Offer healthy snacks such as raw vegetables, fruit, light microwave popcorn, vegetable soup, sugar-free gelatin, and fruit snacks. Snacks such as chips and candy bars have empty calories that will not make your child feel full.
- You pick the snack. When children are allowed to pick their own snacks, they often make unhealthy choices. Talk to your child about why healthy snacks are important. Come up with a list of snacks that you can both agree on and have them on hand.