You are what you eat: National Nutrition Month

March 31st, 2016 by Live Well Omaha Kids

Written by Jamie Schneider, American Heart Association

ObesityInfantToPreschoolYou are what you eat.

Everyone has heard that before.

But as we move out of National Nutrition Month and toward often food-centered events like barbeques, family reunions and vacations, now is an important time to remember that familiar saying. Eat healthy if you want to be healthy.

The same goes for children. If you want them to be healthy, they have to eat and drink healthy.

One in three children and adolescents (ages 2-19) are overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association, with nearly none meeting the healthy diet and physical activity recommendations.

Juice, which often lacks fiber but has added sugar, makes up 40-percent of children’s daily fruit intake. French fries are the most common vegetable children eat, making up 25-percent of their vegetable intake.

Let’s do better.

What can you do to eat heart-healthy?

  •  Look for foods and drinks that are low in sodium and added sugars. Also, limit foods that have unhealthy fats that can harm your heart, and opt for the healthier fats found in avocados, olive oil and salmon. When your calories come from foods that have unhealthy fats like cheese and lard, or foods that are high in added sugars and sodium, you could be hurting your heart.
  • Read nutrition labels. You already know to look for calories, sodium and sugar. One of the most important things to know is the serving size, which is the amount of food or beverage that the other numbers reflect. In your bag or bottle, there may be one serving but there may also be 100 servings.
  • Compare labels on different foods to find the best option. Limit foods that have high amounts of certain nutrients. If the label says the food has a lot of saturated and trans fats, trade it for something healthier. Limit foods that are high in sodium and sugar.

Below is a quick list of healthy eating tips you can share with your children.

  1. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  2. Choose whole-grain foods which can be a good source of dietary fiber.
  3. Eat fish, especially oily fish (for example salmon, trout, herring), at least twice a week.
  4. Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats.
  5. Limit the amount of red meat you eat and choose lean meats and poultry. There are also many meat-free alternatives to get protein.
  6. Select fat-free (skim), 1%-fat and low-fat dairy products.
  7. Limit your intake of beverages and foods with added sugars.
  8. Learn about sodium and the common foods that have too much of it.
  9. If you want to snack, go nuts! A serving size is a small handful or 1.5 ounces of whole nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter.
  10. Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Work with your child to help them make better decisions, which you can make into fun challenges that make healthy foods more exciting. When children get involved, they are more likely to develop habits that will serve them well in the future.

Ask your child to grocery shop with you. Can they find a fresh fruit or vegetable for every color of the rainbow? Let them pick out ingredients for a competition to make the best salad. Ask them to find the low sodium option in the aisle.

The possibilities are endless.

No matter your age, eating healthy foods is one of the most important ways to keep your heart working at its best. Make it a priority for you and your family to choose foods that keep your heart — and the rest of your body — in top shape so you can enjoy those moments that make life special. Your children need you to be there as they grow up.

Remember, keep your weight in balance by matching the amount of energy you put in (the calories you eat and drink) with the amount of energy you put out or need for the activities you do each day. The same goes for children.

 

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