Lean toward healthier eating habitsFeeding a family is one of the most important tasks of parents, and can often be the most stressful as well. Challenges of putting a healthful and nutritious meal on the table can be compounded by financial limitations.
By: Bea Haines, The Republican Eagle
Feeding a family is one of the most important tasks of parents, and can often be the most stressful as well. Challenges of putting a healthful and nutritious meal on the table can be compounded by financial limitations.
The WIC program of Goodhue County can help. This federally funded program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Health and services are available here in Red Wing, with additional sites in Zumbrota, Kenyon and Cannon Falls.
If you are pregnant, recently had a baby, or have children under the age of five, you may be eligible for WIC. You will need to meet annual income guidelines but many working families do qualify. WIC can provide education on health and nutrition, and then provides vouchers for specific foods, including milk, cheese, eggs, whole grains breads and cereals, beans, fruits and vegetables.
Healthy nutrition begins at birth.
The ideal nutrition for infants is breast milk. Pediatricians recommend breast milk for the first year of life, with the addition of infant foods at around 6 months of age.
Many grocery items that have “kid-appeal” may not necessarily be the most healthful choices. Pre-packaged meals and snacks, boxed pasta dishes, processed meats, are foods that almost all children eat at one time or another, but these foods are expensive, contribute high levels of fats and sodium and simply aren't good choices for everyday use.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, plain meats which are baked or grilled and low-fat dairy products are examples of healthier choices for a growing family. When consumed in appropriate amounts, these foods not only provide energy and nutrients for growth, but help to prevent childhood obesity, which is becoming a near-epidemic in our society.
When planning healthful meals, plan for a variety of colors on the plate.
Fruits and vegetables should be the foundation of a healthy diet. They are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and disease fighting phytochemicals. They are naturally filling, so they help in weight control.
Colored sweet peppers, raw cucumbers, broccoli, carrot sticks and snap peas, are examples of easy-to-prepare and easy-to-consume veggies to have on hand in your refrigerator.
Fruits are almost universally loved by children, but it should be noted that they do contain natural sugars and should not be consumed all day long.
Two servings of fruit a day meet the recommendation, and fruit juice should only be offered once a day in a 4-ounce serving.
Too much juice can add up to empty calories and contribute to tooth decay.
Proteins are also essential foods for kids. Lean chicken, hamburger, tuna or other types of fish, baked beans and eggs are good choices, and don’t require a lot of advance preparation. With the addition of plain pasta, low-fat cheese, and skim milk, you can easily make your own “hamburger or tuna helper” at a fraction of the cost and the nutrition can’t be beat.
For additional protein, hard –boiled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week, making an easy to grab snack for hungry children. Peanut butter is another good protein source, but does contain higher amounts of fats. Serve on whole grain toast or celery for another quick snack idea.
Whole grains are also dietary essentials, and usually young children don’t need much encouragement here!
The WIC program offers many choices of whole grain cereals, which can be served dry as a snack or with milk for a nutritious breakfast. Whole grain breads and tortillas are also offered on the program. Topping tortillas with low-fat cheese and heating in the microwave make instant quesadillas. You can also add chopped vegetables, or cooked black or garbanzo beans.
If your child resists eating your healthy food choices, do not despair. Usually they outgrow this behavior in time.
Ease the way to better eating
Here are some tips for encouraging your child to eat healthful foods:
• Let them pick out what fruits and veggies are going to be served.
• Involve them in meal planning and preparation when possible.
• Enjoy family meals together. Provide the role model for healthy eating that they need.
• Offer the same foods for everyone and resist being a “short-order” cook. If you child chooses not to eat what is served, they should be expected to wait until the next meal or snack time.
• Do not allow grazing throughout the day. Your child may not feel hungry at mealtime if food is available all day.
The WIC program in Goodhue County is headquartered in Red Wing at the Colvill Family Center. Please call the WIC office at 651-385-4782 for more information or to schedule an appointment at any of the county WIC sites.