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Published on September 26, 2017

family enjoying dinner together

Food is Fuel – What Are You Putting in Your Kids’ Engines?

By Becky Hantzen, Avera Integrative Medicine Team

Houston, we have a problem!

Well, really Americans and most of the world are at risk. The hope for our future is becoming stagnated in the heaviness of food addiction and blood sugar ups and downs.

Our bodies run on food – we do not do well on poor nutrition.

Multiple scientists and physicians have looked at our diet, and they often note that the poor dietary habits of today’s children are contributing to obesity, reduced brain function and higher incidence of allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases and emotional and behavioral disorders, such as depression and ADD.

Here are five strategies for having your children eat healthier:

  1. Gradual changes. Start with one thing, and remember if you are adding a new vegetable or other healthy choice, you may need to set some goals. We need to try things several times before deciding if we like it, or if we don’t.
  2. Make healthy eating a “family thing.” If kids want something specific, like fruit snacks, you know they are craving a sweet taste, and this is the perfect time for fruit. If you allow kids to take part in picking the fruit, washing it and peeling or slicing it, it’ll help.
  3. Consider kitchen time as fun time. Utilize this time together as a chance to bond. As a busy parent, it’s important to take time and enjoy our shared moments. Cook as though you love it, and make it more fun with music, sharing fun stories or asking about their day. The key ingredient? Just be present.
  4. Work together. Plan menus together or at least give children options and incorporate what you can in your most effective “super mom” way. For instance, ask kids what vegetable to have at supper, or allow them to pack their lunches with your guidance. It can be a great teachable moment and help them get different food groups into their lunch.
  5. Shopping lists only work if you make them. Prior to going to the grocery store, you can have more teachable moments with kids if you work together while preparing your menus and then create your shopping list.

These tips can help, but remember that companies have brilliant marketing that targets our children. It’s a threat of sorts, but being prepared and educating your family can not only help with your family’s health, but also your grocery bill.

There are many poor choices out in our sometimes-frightening world. Education for both kids and parents is a step in the right direction, so while you apply the five rules above, consider these “Five Worsts” as you shop and dine with your family. They are bad for kids, but also bad for you.

Top-Five Worst Foods

Breakfast cereals: Look for ones that have at least five grams of fiber per serving and four grams of protein. Yes, that is hard to do, and remember, we can survive without cereal. Just saying …

  1. Granola bars: They’re easy to find and pack, but that’s about it in terms of their value. Read your labels, because most granola bars are basically the equivalent of a candy bar. Look for ones with higher protein levels and if possible, just leave them on the shelf.
  2. Luncheon meats: Sandwich meat is processed and loaded with chemicals, preservatives and things we can pronounce. If you buy sandwich meat, only get ones with a label that says “No sodium nitrates added” or ones without preservatives. They are out there, but you have to read your labels to find good ones. You can save money and offer better choices roasting turkey and other meats yourself.
  3. Juice boxes: Juice is just sugar, and fruit that is juiced is sugar. So when you’re getting juice boxes with added sugar – you are not helping. Water is the best choice.
  4. Soda: This empty calorie culprit really packs the sugar. Consider that a teaspoon of sugar is equal to four grams. One 12-ounce can of Coca Cola packs a 39-gram wallop of sugar, or nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar, and that’s just a can. Diet sodas are filled with sweeteners that are processed but your body still thinks of them as sugar. There are many dangers that accompany diet sodas, and a raft of studies showing how unhealthy they are. Stick with water, even if it’s hard. Kids should have to acquire its taste.
  5. Fruit snacks: Even if the label indicates some fruit component in these snacks, the processing and sugar content alone make these among the unhealthiest of snacks. Yes, they quiet children quickly, but a piece of fruit will do the same, without the guilt and bad stuff.

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