Encouraging healthy eating can seem like a demoralizing task in a world that glorifies candy, chocolate, and potato chips over healthy foods and will help your kids grow strong. Fortunately, children admire their parents, so you can guide them in their choices. “Try to incorporate fruits and vegetables into every meal, including breakfast. Also, slow down on processed foods and plan healthy meals and snacks for your kids as well as for yourself.” He says that it is better to try to set the example of “do as I do”, and not the most common “do as I say”.
Here are some fun food facts that might make your kids think twice about their choice of foods and snacks.
You can start the conversation with: “Did you know that …
- A 355 ml can of soft drink contains 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar. That’s 150 to 180 empty calories. Better to quench your thirst with milk or water.
- Fish, chicken, and other lean meats and meat alternatives like beans and tofu are packed with protein to help keep muscles strong.
- Leafy green vegetables like broccoli and orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins to keep you energized and help you play harder, longer.
- Fruit is better than juice! In fact, an unpeeled raw apple contains almost 10 times more fiber than a cup of apple juice.
- Sports drinks are mostly water, but their second most essential ingredient is sugar. While sports drinks are okay to drink sometimes after a lot of exercise like a soccer game, you will get more nutrition (and less empty calories) by having water plus a complex carbohydrate like fresh fruit.
- Your body needs the right oils and fats to give your muscles rapid energy. But if you eat too much, it stores in your body. The good fats are found in nuts, avocados, olive oil, canola oil, and non-hydrogenated soft margarine. Bad fats are found in hard margarine, vegetable shortening, butter, coconut and palm oils, fatty meats, and whole dairy products.
- Low-fat milk and dairy products and fortified soy products are packed with calcium to build strong bones that help keep you safe while playing.
- Eating fiber makes you feel full and it’s healthy for your heart. Eating a slice of white bread won’t satisfy your hunger as much as a slice of 100% whole wheat bread with the germ on it. Foods high in fiber also contain vitamins and minerals to keep your heart strong.
- Sugary cereals, sugary sodas, white bread, and white rice break down quickly in the body, making you hungry early. They can also give you a quick burst of energy, but that energy is quickly depleted, leaving you feeling tired and even cranky.
- Nutritious snacks keep you fit throughout the day, help you fight energy dips and keep your metabolic rate high, all of which helps maintain a healthy weight. For example, a small handful of nuts with a fresh fruit contains fiber and healthy fats that give you energy that lasts, unlike what you get from junk food like chips or candy bars.
Making healthy foods the fastest and easiest choice will also increase the chances that your children will make that choice. This is why it is also useful not to keep junk food in the house and at least out of the reach and sight of your little ones.
At all times, have fruits, healthy foods, and vegetables in your kitchen that you know your kids love. If their favorite low fat yogurt flavor is peach, then buy it. Get a bunch of easy-to-peel bananas if you know it’s something your kids are enjoying. That’s why it can also be helpful to let them help you plan your grocery list, especially when it comes to vegetables and fruits. Remember, if your child “don’t like” plums and it’s the only fruit in the house, they may beg for junk food or skip a healthy snack altogether.
If you are disheartened because fresh foods often go uneaten and go bad, remember that frozen and canned vegetables, fruits, fish, and other foods are equally healthy time savers. Just check to see if there is any added sugar, salt, or unhealthy fats.