Health Topics: Nutrition
Column by Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool
With all of the information out there about food and diets, it can be hard to figure out what is the best food to provide for your family. The food pyramid was revised in May 2005 (see MyPyramid.gov) to reflect the importance of physical activity, variety in the diet and personalization – one size does not fit all when it comes to eating. While young children usually have no problem with physical activity, they can develop poor eating habits which catch up with them later.
The American Heart Association also came out with recommendations for nutrition in childhood in August 2005, and they are working to improve lunches in schools and eliminate junk food in school vending machines. Even with community-wide efforts like these, it is still true that caregivers are the primary role models for their children when it comes to eating and physical activity. The caregiver’s responsibility is to provide the right food to eat, but the child must make the choice about what and how much to eat – you cannot force a child to eat.
Try this at home:
• Be a good role model: If you want your child to eat less treats or exercise more, then you must do this too. Do it every day. Limit TV watching to one to two hours per day. You are in charge of what food is brought into the house.
• If your child is a picky eater: Stop poor habits like using the bottle and reduce juice to six ounces per day. Enforce the food rules at all times. Provide food first before the tummy is full of milk or juice. Make food fun to eat by making it visually interesting and child-sized.
• If your child is too large: Be positive. Do not call your child fat or make him or her diet. Make sure your child knows your love for him has nothing to do with his weight. Focus on moving more: play ball, teach your child to swim, play moving games like tag, red light/green light or musical chairs, tumble and dance, ride bikes together.
• Serve healthy drinks: Provide water instead of soda or sweet drinks. Drink one percent or fat free milk two to three cups per day after meals unless your child is younger than 1 year old.
• Practice good habits with the whole family: Sit and eat with the TV off. Put food away when finished eating. Do not reward children with food like candy for good behavior.
Remember: Developing good eating habits with your children can last a lifetime.
Contributions from Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool, a program of Partners in Development Foundation. Tutu and Me is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.