Now that the sugar-filled holidays are over, I thought it would be a good time to focus on healthy eating habits. Childhood obesity is an increasingly critical issue in our country and parents are on the frontlines wanting to know what?s best for their children?s health. We are lucky at Primrose to count Dr. Laura Jana as one of our franchise owners. She is a trusted pediatrician and co-author of the book ?Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor and a Bottle of Ketchup.? I?ve compiled questions that I frequently hear from parents and asked Dr. Jana to share some insights with us. This week, we?ll start with a focus on fruits and veggies. Next week, we?ll turn to other common questions like children?s vitamins and 2% milk. I think you?ll find her expert advice to be down to earth and very helpful so be sure to check back in for more tips!
Dr. Z: Are there foods that are commonly missing from children?s diets?
Dr. J: Although missing foods can vary from child to child, on the whole I’d have to say vegetables are the most notably lacking, followed by fruits. However, I?ve seen picky eaters whose diets were significantly lacking in other important food groups, like protein. In some cases, children will often refuse to drink milk, which makes it more important to pay attention to how to include other dairy and calcium enriched foods in their diet.
Dr. Z: How many fruits and vegetables should children really eat on a daily basis? How do you recommend increasing their intake?
Dr. J: It?s much less stressful for everyone if parents take a long range view of their children?s diet. Instead of focusing on how many fruits and vegetables a child should eat each and every day, parents will find it helpful to take a look at their child’s weekly intake. This takes the pressure off of them if a child has a particularly picky day every now and then. They?ll still want to offer their child a variety each day, but they won’t need to lose sleep if their attempts aren’t always met with success. If you think about it, fruits and vegetables can be very appealing. They come in lots of colors, flavors, and textures and many are, in fact, sweet. Simply making fruits and vegetables readily available on a daily basis can go a long way towards increasing intake. Parents can make it as easy to grab some carrot sticks, a banana or a handful of grapes (cut in pieces for younger children for safety’s sake) as it is to grab junk food. I also recommend keeping less junk food on hand so fruits and vegetables don’t have to compete with the likes of cookies, candy, and other unhealthy but tempting treats. I am a big fan of letting kids take part in the process by helping grow vegetables in a garden, pick new and colorful fruits and vegetables out at the grocery store, and even read books about them (Eating the Alphabet and How are You Peeling: Foods with Moods).