One small step for children, one giant leap for nutrition

At Catholic Health Services, one of our service lines is early education and childcare. Our Centro Mater childcare centers have worked extremely hard to place emphasis on the nutrition and health of the children and their families. To pay some homage to their efforts and this vital issue in the health care realm, today we will talk about a few ways to instill some healthier eating habits into the household.

For some of you, this will be a breeze and for others, not so much. However, it is key to set a good example for your children to follow. If you lounge around on the couch eating a bag of chips, you’d better believe they won’t be too keen on the carrot sticks you hand them. Be willing to take what you dish out, even the brussel sprouts.

I challenge all of you to keep soda out of the house, as well as other sugary drinks that have no nutritional value. Even juice is packed with sugar, so try watering it down a bit or using it sparingly. Water is the best gift you can give your body and will leave your child feeling energized and refreshed, rather than lethargic and more dehydrated than they started out. If you’re trying to do this along with your kids and are even hoping to lose some weight along the way, kicking the soda habit is a great first step that will give you some results.

Don’t completely ban junk food because your child will most likely resort to stuffing their faces full of it the second they are out of your sight. Instead, make it a treat and always go for pre-portioned options so that no one gets the opportunity to overdo it. Piggybacking off of this, discourage vending machines for snacks. If your child doesn’t eat school meals, actually take time to pack a proper lunch and snacks or model the way by helping them pack it. Getting lazy every so often is okay, but give your kid too many quarters and that nutritious lunch will become a stick bun, a bag of chips and a soda.

Keep it interesting. Constantly experiment with new healthy foods to try out so no one gets bored. Keep the plates colorful that way you’re happy AND they’re happy. You never know, you might come across something everyone enjoys that you never knew about before.

Discuss some healthy options to look for on the menu when you go out for meals at restaurants. Even some fast food places, though I don’t encourage them, have grilled chicken or salad options. Keep the dressing on the side though, if you don’t want it to end up with the same calorie count as a Big Mac. Also consider the portion size because realistically, no one needs to consume the entirety of the portion sizes at most restaurants.

Finally, keep a pretty regular eating and drinking schedule. Often times when people think they’re hungry, they’re either bored or dehydrated, so drinking water throughout the day helps everyone know the difference. This also helps with the snacking issue because there can be designated healthy snack times throughout the day between meals.

Even though some of you probably love that giant family size bag of Doritos you keep in the cabinet, it may be time to ditch it for the sake of your nutrition and that of your children. Trust me, their health is worth it!