While parents are preparing their kids to get back into the school day routine after the holidays, they should also be encouraging healthy eating routines. Whether making lunch at home or buying lunch at school, it is important for children to consume healthy foods, giving them plenty of energy for the day. It is a common misconception that all foods that are “for children,” are healthy options; learning to read nutritional facts on food labels can help you and your child make healthier choices.
Much of the processed food that is made with children in mind is packed with added sugar, and a diet high in sugar can lead to weight gain and other chronic diseases like diabetes. Just changing something as small as everyday drink choices can significantly lower a child’s sugar intake. For example, juice is a common drink choice for kids, but many times juice can contain more sugar than a can of soda! Switching to low or no-sugar-added drinks such as flavored or sparkling water, milk and plain water, and limiting them to one sweet beverage a day can make a big impact on your child’s nutrition. For a healthy and low-sugar snack, consider buying fresh fruit and vegetables.
Portion size also plays a major role in a child’s nutrition, and in most cases, the amount they eat is more important than the food itself. A good rule of thumb when choosing the right portion size for each child is that they shouldn’t eat more food than the size of both of their fists put together. Their two fists together are about the size of their stomach. It can take two to three weeks for a child to get used to eating less, but the goal is for the child to eat when they are actually hungry by listening to the stomach for cues, instead of eating because it’s there. During the time of adjustment, if your child is still hungry after they’ve eaten their portion size, have them drink water and wait about fifteen minutes. If they are still hungry, let them have another half portion. Helping your children adopt healthy habits early in their lives will make them more likely to maintain them throughout their life.
Making sure you eat proper portions and include the right variety of foods in your diet can be difficult, and often, the guidance of a dietitian can get people on the right track. Cone Health has an exceptional network of registered dietitians and pediatric specialists dedicated to helping patients and families develop and maintain healthy, balanced diets that work for them and fit into their lifestyles.
Dr. Jennifer Badik is a pediatric endocrinologist at Cone Health Pediatric Sub-Specialists of Greensboro. Dr. Badik earned her Doctor of Medicine at Temple University in 2006. She completed her residency in pediatrics at the University of Arizona in 2009 and completed a fellowship in pediatric endocrinology and diabetes at Emory University in 2012.