BY Nicole Armstrong, MD FAAP
The new year is here, and everyone is thinking of ways to be healthier in 2019! Making healthy changes can seem difficult, and even overwhelming, but focusing on small changes can make it easier.
We recommend the following guidelines for what kinds of foods, and how much, our children should be getting each day:
- Vegetables: At least 5 servings per day. A serving may consist of 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables (lettuce, spinach, kale), or 1/2 cup of other vegetables, chopped raw or cooked
- Fruits: 2-4 servings per day. A serving may consist of 1/2 cup of sliced fruit, or a medium-size whole fruit, like an apple, banana, or pear. Avoid fruit juice (unless fresh squeezed with pulp!), as this contributes only sugar and no nutrients to the diet
- Bread, cereal, or pasta: 2-3 servings per day. Each serving should equal 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of rice or pasta, or 1 ounce of cereal. Focus on “complex carbohydrates” like brown rice, whole wheat bread/pasta
- Protein foods: 4-6 servings of 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish per day. A serving in this group may also consist of 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, one egg, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter for each ounce of lean meat
- Dairy products: 1-2 servings per day of yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese. Limit milk to no more than 2 cups (16 ounces per day)
We often don’t think about the calories we drink, and this can be a small change that can make a BIG difference in our health. Drinks like juice, soda, or sports drinks contain sugar, which makes them a less than ideal choice.
- 1 Capri Sun 100% juice pouch has as much sugar as a Snickers chocolate bar (20g of sugar)
- 1 serving of soda (12 oz can) has almost twice as much (39g of sugar)
- Water is the best drink that we can give our bodies, and many of us do not get enough. Make it a goal to drink at least 1 glass of water with every meal.
While many of us know what foods our children should be eating, we struggle to get them to eat the foods they should. Some things that can help increase the chances that our little ones will eat those healthy choices include :
- Let them help pick things out at the grocery store
- Have them help you prepare meals or snacks. Children are much more likely to eat something they make themselves.
- Eat veggies first, and make it a rule that no “seconds” are allowed until veggies/fruit is finished
Simple substitutions are another small change that can make a big difference! Try:
- Swapping out juice or soda for flavored water (sugar free drops, or a squeeze of lemon/lime)
- Use riced cauliflower instead of rice or mashed potatoes
- Swap out noodles for Zoodles (zucchini noodles)
Remember too, that regularly scheduled “Well child checks” are an important part of keeping our children healthy.
During a “Well Child Check” appointment, the pediatrician will assess how your child is growing, and make sure that they are maintaining a healthy height and weight, as well as BMI (body mass index, or weight compared to height).
If you have any questions about how to make healthier choices for your families, we are always happy to answer!
If you want to learn more, here are some good resources to check out: