Healthy Nutrition Tips for Kids and Teens

How many children do you know that struggle with their weight?  Years ago, most children were lean and trim.  With the changes in the food industry today, it seems that so many children are not only suffering from obesity, but also suffer from skin issues, food allergies, eating disorders, and high cholesterol, just to name a few.

There are some disturbing statistics on childhood obesity. For ages 6-11, the prevalence of obesity increased from 4% in 1971-1974 to 18% in 2009-2010.  And for ages 12-19, the prevalence of obesity increased from 6.1% – 18.4% for the same time frame.

So the question is, why are children overweight?  There are a variety of reasons.  Genetic factors, lack of physical activity, larger portion sizes and unhealthy eating patterns can play a big part in this problem.  Obesity is diagnosed as the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same sex.   Today, nearly 1 out of 4 children and teens are overweight.

Sadly, those extra pounds put children at risk for developing serious health problems including diabetes, asthma, heart disease, as well as the emotional toll on self-esteem.

In addition to obesity, food allergies are a major cause for concern as well.  Statistics for food allergies indicate increased allergies by 50% between 1997 and 2011.  1 in 13 children are affected by food allergies.  Many researchers believe this is due to the GMOs (genetically modified organisms) that are in our food.

Here are some tips you can incorporate into your family to help your children adopt healthier habits:

  1.      Be a role model. You can’t expect your children to eat vegetables while you are sitting there eating a bag of chips.    Disguise the taste of healthier foods.  Add vegetables to a soup by pureeing it.  Slice up an apple with an organic caramel dip.  Add vegetables to a fruit smoothie (they won’t even notice it).
  2.     Cook more meals at home and cook in bulk.  Committing to this part will have a huge impact on your children’s health.  Restaurant food has more sugar and unhealthy fat than when you cook at home.
  3.     Take your kids shopping with you and teach them how to read labels and pick out produce. Have your kids prepare meals and healthy snacks with you, such as chopping vegetables, shredding carrots, etc.
  4.     Keep healthy snacks available at all times.  Cut up vegetables, fruits, oatmeal muffins, roasted chick peas, organic chips and hummus are all good choices
  5.     Limit portion sizes and do not force children to finish their plate.  Their bodies will tell them when they are full.  Force-feeding can lead to dysfunctional eating habits.
  6.     Statistics indicate that children that eat breakfast have a better memory, more stable moods and energy, and score higher on tests.  Breakfast does not need to be time- consuming.  A simple piece of fruit or sprouted toast and apple butter is a quick and healthy choice.
  7.     Sit down to dinner as a family.  Regular meals provide emotional comfort for the kids and foster a connection.  You can also teach by example and monitor their eating habits.
  8. Limit sugar and refined carbohydrates (these foods are stripped of fiber and nutrients. And can include many breakfast cereals).  Added sugars and processed foods cause spikes in blood sugar, fluctuations in mood and energy and increases health problems.
  9. Stick to choosing complex carbs, which high in nutrients and fiber.  Foods such as potatoes, beans, quinoa and other grains are good choices.  Natural sugar from fruits is a good choice as well, due to the nutrients and vitamins they contain.
  10. Encourage exercise.  Lead by example and do something together.   This could be as simple as taking a walk with the family dog.