On Food and Health
Archives: November 2009
When shaping eating habits, sooner is better.
I have encountered many parents who ask, How can I get my children to eat healthy? What can I do to get my child to eat vegetables?
While some children resist eating veggies, others do not, and those usually have a vibrant food culture at home, which means that at least one parent plays the role of the nutritional gatekeeper, encouraging healthy eating habits by virtue of what meals or snacks she or he prepares. A good gatekeeper provides healthy and/or innovative meals. In homes where children do not eat vegetables, drink soda freely and eat food that comes prepared out of a box or bag, the nutritional gatekeeper may well be better named an enabler of bad eating habits.
Unfortunately, poor habits are easily adopted. Kids learn to make poor food choices and rely on a menu of soft bread, pasta, breaded chicken fingers, pizza, burgers, hot dogs and fries – mostly refined carbohydrates, tenderized meats and refined fats. They have a very limited menu, a poor road map for eating, where the bulk of their nourishment is derived from a few ingredients.
Every family, whether two or single parent, needs a responsible nutritional gatekeeper. This person promotes healthy eating by educating him or herself and by applying what he or she learns in the kitchen. Information about good eating practices abounds and the adult is responsible for the nutritional formation of the child. If your home doesn’t have one, you can become the gatekeeper. Follow this link to a New York Times article about nutritional gatekeepers; you may have to register (free) to read: Who’s Cooking? (For Health, It Matters). http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/17/health/17well.html
A basic formula for healthy eating is:
*Eat whole grains in the form cereal, bread, rice blends, etc.
*Eat 75% or more of your food from the plant kingdom: eat whole fruits and vegetables.
*Eat locally-grown whenever possible. Food is fresher and at the peak of ripeness.
*Eat a variety of proteins: meat, fish & seafood, poultry and soy beans.
*Stay away from refined sugars and fats: sodas, packaged foods, packaged desserts and sweets are no-no’s. Beware of processed food that bears an “organic” label. Processed food is still processed food in spite of the organic labeling.
*Eat most of your carbohydrates early in the day when you are more active and fewer in the evening when you are less active. If you need more food, eat more vegetables and save the carbs for the last part of the meal. In other words, eat your vegetables and proteins first and your modest portion of carbs last. This technique keeps your metabolism humming.
Encourage your children to eat a variety of vegetables. It is a fact that nutritional variety consisting of whole, plant-based foods is a cornerstone to general well-being, weight management, healthy digestion and a healthy immune system.
Introduce healthy eating habits to kids early and stay consistent. Talk about the importance of good nourishment and follow up by providing meals that demonstrate those principles. The nutritional habits that you instill in your children will reflect on their adult health.