It's a question I get a lot: I am very busy with kids and work. How can I make sure my kids eat healthy?
Trying to make sure your kids "eat right" is every parent's challenge including mine. And it is quite a challenge when most of us are busier and trying to juggle more than we ever thought possible. Whether it is an infant on your hip while you chase the escaping toddler or a teenager in the driver's seat with a permit in his pocket, life does not make healthy eating easy. So, during this National Nutrition Month, what can you do for your kids to help them be a bit healthier?
First, if you are new to parenthood, breast milk is one of the most effective obesity prevention tools and breastfeeding is an excellent way to get your baby started on living a nutritious life. For older children, there is a popular slogan being passed around WNC to help kids learn how to be healthy. It goes 5-2-1-almost none. This is a slogan to learn and take to heart. Five is for eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Two is for no more than 2 hours of screen time per day (non-school related and does include cell phone time). One is for at least 1 hour of vigorous exercise each day and almost none is for the amount of sugar sweetened drinks you and your kids should drink (includes sodas, sports drinks, and sweet tea). Just eliminating one soda per day equals losing almost 15 pounds in a year.
Making these changes can set your kids on the road to better health. It isn't rocket science but it isn't easy. Planning meals ahead can help. Having fruits and vegetables on hand can help. Try keeping some oranges or apples in a bowl in the kitchen. When hungry kids come home and that is what they find, you may be surprised to see them munching on a piece of fruit. Another trick to improve nutrition is to make sure you and your kids eat breakfast every day. Grab a yogurt or low-fat granola bar on the way out the door if you don't have time to sit down. Drink lots of water. This is good for your health in so many ways but most importantly helps you maintain a healthy weight. Most of us do not get enough water but with kids carrying around water bottles at school now, this may be changing.
Other ways to help your family eat better include making a pledge to remove electronics from mealtime. That means turning off the TV and putting away cell phones. Studies show that people eat more when eating in front of the TV. Eating more meals at home is great for family conversation and results in eating less. Eating out makes us used to double and triple portion sizes. A little trick is that the size of your meat should equal the size of your fist. Slowing down mealtime and eating dinner in courses starting with the fruits and vegetables can help too. Visit www.letsmove.gov for more information. Happy Nutrition Month!
Susan Mims, MD MPH is VP for Women's and Children's at Mission Hospital and Medical Director for Mission Children's Hospital. Dr. Mims' sees patients and families in Mission Children's Child Healthy Weight Program. She is also an active member of the Western Carolina Medical Society.