Proper nutrition is the foundation to a healthy lifestyle and teaching children to be fit when they are young will have a positive impact on the rest of their life. Without proper nutrition, children may develop vitamin deficiencies, prone to obesity, stunted development, or struggle to pay attention in school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “17 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are obese,” which increases a child’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, respiratory problems and depression.
Do you struggle with a picky eater in your home?
Tracy Wynter, group fitness instructor at The Fitness Centre and Day Spa at Florida Hospital Celebration Health wrote a children’s book called, Reggie: The Boy Who Hated Veggies to help teach picky eaters about the importance of eating vegetables. “The goal of the story is to get children interested in eating healthier. The story can be used to jump start conversations between parents and their children about eating vegetables,” says Tracy. Tips to help even the pickiest of eaters: 1. Don’t force your child to eat vegetables. It’s better to offer your child a few healthy options and allow them to choose which healthy food they would like to eat. By giving them the choice, it empowers them and they feel in control. 2. Another good rule of thumb is to show your child what to eat, by leading by example. If they see you eating healthy foods, more times than not, they will mimic your behavior. 3. Praise your child for trying new healthy foods, even if it’s just one bite. For example, “It’s great that you tried green beans.” Don’t focus on how happy it makes you feel, but more on the fact that your child tried a new food. 4. Educate your child on why it’s important to eat vegetables instead of making it a rule or demand. Children want to grow up and be strong, like their favorite superhero or big brother/sister, so play off their imaginations and educate them on all the vitamins and minerals that can do just that! 5. Prepare your child’s favorite meal but make it healthier by substituting a few unhealthy ingredients. Use whole-wheat pasta and grains, fruits instead of sweets and offer fruit juice instead of sugary sodas. If a recipe calls for mayonnaise or other full-fat ingredients, try using Greek yogurt or cut the recipe in half. Kid friendly items include baked sweet potato fries, baked chicken nuggets, sorbet instead of ice cream, or apple sauce with cinnamon.
If you continue to struggle with picky eaters and need help teaching your child the importance of making healthy choices, programs like Healthy 100 Kids, developed by Florida Hospital for Children have great resources available to you. Healthy 100 Kids offers children, ages 6-17 years old and their families long-term support and individualized attention to combat childhood obesity. To learn more about Healthy 100 Kids, call the Florida Hospital Friends and Family Helpline at (407) 303-KIDS (5437).