Child Nutrition

Teaching Children Nutrition

It is important that children eat a balanced diet so that they can grow and learn, and to prevent diseases like obesity and diabetes.

One of the best ways to teach nutrition is to lead by example. Children will form healthy habits if they are following in your footsteps. For example, you can go for a walk or bike ride instead of watching TV, playing a video game, or surfing the Internet. Playing ball or jumping rope with your children shows them that being active is fun. You can teach them to eat fruit instead of processed desserts, and to eat a balanced meal.

It is important that you talk to your child about nutrition and exercise. Being healthy will help them build self-esteem and confidence in their decisions. For example, you can explain to them why an overly salty or sugary snack is unhealthy, and how it won't fuel their body the way an alternative would. Some example positive comments include:

  • "Great choice!"
  • "You're giving your body what it needs with that snack!"
  • "I like those too."
  • "You run so fast, I can hardly keep up!"
  • "You are building a strong, healthy heart!"
  • "Let's walk 10 more minutes to make us stronger."

Kids in the Kitchen

One of the best ways to teach kids nutrition and food safety is to involve them in the kitchen. The following video from Nutrition.gov, the USDA, and the National Agricultural Library is an example of a recipe that is easy and fun for kids to make with adults. For more ideas, visit Nutrition.Gov.

The Kids Corner at Nutrition.Gov is another great resource with games and activities that can teach kids about nutrition and how to take care of their bodies.

Nutrition in the Nantucket Public Schools

The Nantucket Public Schools incorporates nutrition into curriculum outside of the cafeteria in order to empower students to make healthy choices. They also offer free and reduced meals, and an online menu of what is being served at each school. Meals in the cafeteria include the recommended serving of each food group in order to promote wellness.

The NPS Wellness Departmentoffers the following information on nutrition: A combination of physical activity and good nutrition is essential for good health and physical wellness. The benefits include becoming more physically fit, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing the incidences of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. In addition, physical activity and good nutrition can relieve stress and improve self-esteem.

A healthy diet includes a rich variety of foods including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat, beans, and eggs. Portion size is also an important consideration.

Grains – eat 6 oz. every day. Choose whole grain

  • Half of all grains consumed should be whole grains. A whole grain includes the entire kernel and yields more dietary fiber than a refined grain.
  • An enriched grain has vitamins and minerals added to it, but it is still refined and, therefore, has less fiber.
  • Check labels when buying bread – look for “whole wheat” or “whole grains”.
  • Just because bread is brown in color doesn’t mean it is whole grain.
    • Molasses and other additives can create the brown color associated with whole wheat.

Vegetables – eat 2 ½ cups every day - vary your veggies

  • Choose a wide variety of vegetables to get the most vitamins and minerals, but dark green and orange veggies offer the most potassium and vitamin A.

Fruits – eat 1 ½ cups every day

  • seasonal is the best buy, costs less and tastes better.
  • Whole fruits are high in fiber.
  • 100% fruit juice is a good choice, but it is lower in fiber.
  • Other choices include dried, frozen and canned fruits, but avoid choosing fruit in heavy syrup.

Meats and beans – eat 5 oz. every day

  • lean meats are bestLow fat meats include tenderloin, ham, 90% lean ground beef, round steak/roast, skinless chicken breasts, and turkey cutlets.
  • Nuts and seeds offer protein along with healthy oils and vitamin E.
  • Fish, especially salmon and trout are high in beneficial oils.
  • Dried or canned beans and peas are good sources of protein. Canned beans are more convenient than dried, offer the same nutrition and fiber and they save time. Add to soups, chili, salads, and stews.

Milk and dairy – 3 cups every day

  • change to low-fat or skim milk
  • It’s easier to change gradually from whole milk to 2%, then to 1%, and finally to skim.

Cheese

  • choose low-fat or part-skim (mozzarella or provolone).

When selecting meats from the deli, choose low-fat

  • lean turkey, lean roast beef, and ham.

Oils

  • Not a food group, but oils are important for good health – just switch from solid fats to oils.
  • Oils are liquid at room temperature; examples include corn oil, olive oil, and canola oil.
  • Fish and nuts provide “good” oils.

Solid fats are solid at room temperature; butter, lard, and vegetable shortening.

  • Solid fats raise levels of “bad” cholesterol which has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease.

Beverages

  • Limit sugary drinks. Instead choose water, low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice or unsweetened tea or coffee.
  • When adding milk or cream to coffee or tea, use low-fat or fat-free milk.


For more information, visit the NIDDK, NHLBI, and MedlinePlus.