Healthy eating habits for children

September 14, 2009

by Jenni Sebora

School is back in session and we are all readjusting to our schooltime schedules. At times it seems that we are constantly running, and all too many times, we end up getting supper through a drive-thru.

We have all heard news reports about how unhealthy our children are becoming. We’ve heard about the dangers of overweight children.

Obesity has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, and eating disorders. Just as troublesome are the emotional and psychological effects of being overweight.

Our school schedules contribute to not getting enough exercise and exacerbating our already poor eating habits.

Unfortunately, for most children, it is the parent or caregiver who can unknowingly contribute to this problem. For the most part, we are the ones who select and prepare the foods our children eat.

Some common sense rules that can lead to healthier eating are:

•Choose vegetables and fruit over foods high in fat and sugar.

•Avoid so-called “fruit” drinks. The amount of actual juice in many of these products is minimal.

•Avoid high-fat items at fast food restaurants. Or, skip these places all together and save money.

Experts agree that, whenever possible, eating together as a family leads to healthier eating habits and improves family relationships. Many times children overeat because they don’t realize how much they are actually eating; for example, as when they eat while watching television or playing video games. Visiting over a family meal gives the body’s “I’m full” signals a chance to kick in before overeating takes place.

But, sit-down meals can be a daunting task for working parents. How realistic is it to expect a home-cooked meal after working an eight- or 10-hour shift? While it is not a piece of cake (pardon the pun), it can be done.

One resource that I have found to be helpful in my own hectic life is the Kraft Foods web site (www.kraftfoods.com). Sure, there are many delicious recipes there, but two features that I really like are the “Planning Ahead” and “1 Bag, 5 dinners” sections found under the dinner tab.

The planning ahead section has dinner recipes that can be made a day or two ahead of time which really saves time.

The 1 bag, 5 dinners section gives you a whole week’s worth of dinner recipes, complete with a correlating shopping list to purchase the items that you need. Most of these meals can be made in around 30 minutes.

Perhaps the best thing we can do to help our children eat healthier is to set a good example ourselves. If we make good choices, we not only stay healthy, but we, at least, give our children a chance to learn from our good behavior.