March is National Nutrition Month, which is a time to shed some light on our food choices and how we can develop some sound eating and physical activity habits. The health professionals seem to agree that American families desperately need both of them. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 21% of adolescents are considered obese, and over 17% of kids ages 6-11 are. This is a number that has continued to rise, despite the health problems that obesity can lead to.
“With so many processed and convenience foods available, so many families have lost sight of the connection between food and health. While many of these foods seem to fit in our busy schedule they may be setting us up for chronic diseases later on. Diet-related diseases like coronary artery disease often start in early childhood,” says Dr. Nimali Fernando, a Fredericksburg, Virginia-based pediatrician who founded The Doctor Yum Project. “It’s important for families to make their health a priority through healthy eating and being physically active. Parents hold the key to making this happen, by being role models providing a culture of wellness in the home.”
One major problem that is plaguing kids today is the amount of added sugar that they are consuming. The CDC reports that Americans are consuming too much sugar, which can lead to health problems such as weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. They estimate 2-19 year-olds are consuming an average of 16% of their daily calories from “added sugars” (sugars and syrups that have been added to foods and beverages when they are prepared).
In addition to cutting back on the added sugar, there are numerous other ways that parents can help create healthy family habits, including:
Dr. Fernando and Heidi DiEugenio are two of the original founders of The Doctor Yum Project, an organization with the mission of transforming the lives of families and communities by providing an understanding of the connection between food and overall health, as well as empowering them with the tools to live a healthy life. The project offers free online tools to help families make healthier meals, healthy cooking classes, child nutrition classes, cooking camps for kids, hands-on cooking instruction for families, first foods classes, and a teaching garden, They also offer a preschool nutrition curriculum, with 40 classrooms and almost 600 participating preschoolers. They are the go-to resource for families looking for answers on how make healthy, achievable dietary changes for a lifetime of good health.
Dr. Fernando, otherwise known as Dr. Yum, is a board-certified pediatrician. She is also the co-author of the book “Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parent’s Handbook” (The Experiment, October 2015). To learn more, visit the site at: www.doctoryum.org.
About The Doctor Yum Project
The Doctor Yum Project is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to transforming the lives of families and communities by providing an understanding of the connection between food and overall health, as well as empowering them with the tools to live a healthy life. They offer a variety of community programs to help with those efforts. They are located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and feature a free interactive website with family taste-tested healthy recipes and innovative tools to make cooking at home easier, an instructional kitchen and teaching garden for holding classes. To learn more, visit the site at: www.doctoryum.org.
Your toddler is on a tasting adventure from the moment solid foods are introduced. To avoid them becoming too picky and negatively affecting their nutrition, embrace that spirit of adventure. Making meals look and taste appealing increases the chance of good nutrition from childhood on into adulthood. And whether you are a cooking novice or pro, all you need to create a delicious and nutritious meal for your toddler is the desire to do so.
Here are a few helpful hints from Sari Greaves, author of Cooking Well Healthy Kids: Easy Meals for Happy Toddlers, to get you started:
Offer new foods at the start of a meal. A hungry toddler is a toddler who is less picky.
Train your toddler to try foods that the rest of the family enjoys. Preparing a dish for the whole family, with the only variation being size and texture (smaller portions and softer textures for your toddler) gets them used to eating what you eat. Make sure to serve it alongside a familiar food that your child regularly consumes.
Patience is key with working with toddlers. Allow hot food to cool down and cold food to warm up a little before serving, as toddlers dislike extreme temperatures. In general, pushing them too much in any direction won't help.
Avoid spices and strong tastes. Young children tend be more sensitive to flavors than you are, and may reject heavily seasoned foods. Heavily spiced, salted, buttered, or sweetened dishes may prevent your toddler from experiencing the natural taste of foods.
Cooking Well Healthy Kids: Easy Meals for Happy Toddlers is a kitchen-tested and kid-approved recipe collection for parents. When you need quick, tasty, and healthy meals to suit even the pickiest palate, Easy Meals for Happy Toddlers is the perfect cookbook to help balance nutritional needs in a junk-food world.
Recipe #1: Cocoa Wake Up Smoothie
2 tablespoons pure cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
1 medium ripe banana
8 ounces low fat vanilla Greek yogurt
Dash of cinnamon
4-6 ice cubes
Place all ingredients in blender, cover, and whip until smooth.
Recipe #2: Better Cheddar Grilled Cheese
2 slices whole grain bread
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fruit preserves, any flavor
1 slice of organic cheddar cheese
1/4 pear, thinly sliced
Brush one side of each slice of bread lightly with olive oil. Turn the bread over and spread one slice with fruit preserves; top with cheese and pear, then add remaining bread slice, oiled side up. Lightly coat a griddle or large skillet with cooking spray or a healthy oil. Preheat over medium heat. Add sandwich and cook for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted, turning once to brown both sides.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sari Greaves, RDN, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an expert in family wellness, weight management and women’s health. She is Nutrition Director at Step Ahead Wellness Center in Far Hills, New Jersey and is a frequent guest on The Dr. Oz Show and Dr. Radio on Sirius Satellite. Her books include Obesity Prevention for Children and Cardiac Recovery Cookbook.