What happened to balance?

Nutrition

Do you know what your kids are eating?

Many kids today have yet to truly understand and adopt the basic nutrition principles of balance, variety and moderation.

Shifting away from the five food groups – whole grains, fruit, vegetables, low fat dairy products, and the meat group – to relying heavily on highly processed foods from the grain group such as cereal bars, pop-tarts, donuts, toaster streusels, crackers, cookies, potato chips, French fries and cheesy pasta dishes; any gaps in the diet are then filled with non-nourishing, calorie-laden foods from the tip of the pyramid – fat, sugar, candy, desserts, fruit drinks and sodas. What happened to the other four food groups?

As children reach their teens and have less parental supervision on food choices, their diets tend to suffer. Not recognizing the importance of including specific foods such as milk and yogurt for calcium, and fresh fruit and vegetables for vitamin C and fiber, our children are not feeling as energetic as they should and are putting themselves at risk for obesity and facing adult diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes.

The road to better health starts with good eating habits and being active every day. Encourage your kids to participate in activities that they enjoy, such as bike riding, roller-blading, swimming, dancing, soccer and basketball (to name only a few). Join in, and reap the benefits of regular fitness as a family.

Of course, we are what we eat. So, fueling up on refined starchy foods that do not supply long-lasting energy may translate into kids who are tired, low in energy and hungry all the time.

As teenagers, this group needs to be eating a variety of foods that provide nutrients for growing body needs. Eating better and being more active can make them feel better and think more clearly.

If your teen eats a lot of burgers, fries, and pizza loaded with cheese and high-fat meat toppings, plus enjoys desserts often, their diet is probably not balanced.

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying these foods once in a while, the message is that kids today need to be eating smaller amounts of these foods, and balance them with other foods that may be overlooked in their daily diet.

Eating healthy every day means enjoying a variety of foods from all five food groups. When it comes to cereals, choose those that supply at least three grams of dietary fiber per serving. Make sandwiches with whole grain bread and add fresh fruit and vegetables to lunch and dinner meals.

Snack wisely. Fresh fruit, whole grain tortilla chips with salsa, popcorn (air-popped or low-fat microwave varieties), veggies with low-fat dip, part-skim string cheese with a handful of grapes or whole-grain crackers, as well as fruit smoothies (made with low-fat milk or soy milk and fresh/frozen berries), and low-fat yogurt are only some nutritious options for better snacking.

So kids, take charge of your health by being more active and eating a variety of foods from all the food groups. Even small changes can help you look and feel your best.

The road to better health starts with good eating habits and being active every day.

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