In this age of taco palaces, microwave meals and energy bars, some kids probably think the food pyramid is some ancient Egyptian relic. Overstated? Not necessarily, when you consider that almost 17% of kids ages 2 to 19 are obese; that diabetes, a debilitating disease strongly linked to obesity and inactivity, is rising among children and teens; and that by age 10, most overweight kids already have at least one risk factor for heart disease.
Ideas for happy meals
Nutritionists recommend these steps for getting your child on course for a lifetime of better eating habits:
- Trim the meat. Sure, it’s protein-packed, but red meat is also a culprit in heart disease and some cancers. Better to offer it as a side dish of 3 ounces or less and make fruits and vegetables the main course.
- Serve less. Watch portion sizes closely so kids don’t consume excess calories. Rule of thumb: Your preschooler’s portion should be two-thirds the size of a regular portion.
- Play traffic cop. Use a traffic-light model for your kids’ diet: Serve “green-light” foods like whole grains, rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables, peanut butter and low-fat dairy often; serve “yellow-light” items like pancakes, lean meat, poultry, baked goods and jams in moderation; and serve “red-light” foods like doughnuts, bacon, French fries, butter, junk foods, sweets and soda rarely.
The pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners at Fort HealthCare Internal Medicine & Pediatrics recommend the “5-3-2-1-almost none” model for children’s wellness:
- 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily
- 3 structured meals daily: Eat breakfast, less fast food and more meals prepared at home
- 2 hours or less of television or video games daily
- 1 hour or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily
- Almost none sugar-sweetened drinks