I love sitting down as a family for dinner! At last night’s dinner we were having a conversation (one of many) about eating healthy. I commented to the boys how healthy their dinner was and how eating well would help them to grow up to be “big like Daddy.” In order to encourage them to finish their healthy dinners I asked (what a good Mom I am!) “Do you want to be big like Daddy or little like Mommy?” Our Kindergartner shot his head up to ask, “Mommy – did YOU eat UNhealthy?” After we composed ourselves I assured him that I did not eat UNhealthy.
But it did get me thinking. What does “healthy” look like to a child? I guarantee “healthy” looks a little different to everyone. I also guarantee that there are many questions and/or confusion from mixed messages people may hear on the news or talk shows or read in magazines or books. But if you think about it, there are a few things that never change; my mom told me, her mom told her, etc.
- Eat your fruits and vegetables. Why? Vitamins, Minerals, Fiber. You have probably heard to eat your vitamin C to help fend off colds – or get over one more quickly. The list could go on, but what is more important is that fruits and vegetables give a variety of vitamins and minerals that actually work together to keep us healthy. In addition they are a wonderful source of fiber. Fiber acts like glue in our body to bond with cholesterol floating in our blood which then gets flushed out. More on kids with high cholesterol next week.
- Drink water. I never drank water as a kid, especially not with meals because I thought it made my food taste bad. In high school I finally started listening to my mom but I started at my own pace. When I got home from school I drank a 6 oz glass of water. These days water is my drink of choice with and between meals. Our kids drink either rice milk or water. We hope they will stick to these choices and that they will become good habits that they will hopefully carry with them all their life. Why? Obviously at any age we need to avoid dehydration (yes, it is deadly). It is especially important this time of year as GI bugs are hitting adults and kids daily. If you are dehydrated before you get sick, this could land you in the hospital. Water helps to flush out fat as well. If you drink 8-10 glasses of ice water per day you can burn off about 1/2 a pound of calories in a week (that’s a tip for the adults as most kiddies burn plenty of calories!)
- Avoid Salt. Use salt-free spices instead. This is a big part of why I tell people to eat “real food” (meaning food they have to prepare and not boxes that are heated up in the microwave). All of that packaged food, soups, desserts can all be overloaded with sodium. Why? Salt is an acquired taste. Kids don’t crave salt – they build up a taste for it. Likewise, if you need to cut out the salt shaker you will go through a period of time where your tastebuds need to adjust. In the long run your body will thank you! Salt acts like a sponge in our body to retain fluid, this causes water retention and it also plays a part in raising blood pressure.
- Have Fruit for dessert. Birthday parties and special holidays are fun – let the kids have their cake. Otherwise, why not fruit with a sprinkle of cinnamon, cocoa, or granola. Why? Kids are born craving sugar (as in the sweetness of mommy’s milk). But feed their sweet tooth with fruit – mother nature’s sugar! Clementines are a family hit in these cold winter months. Berries are a sweet treat in the dog days of summer (take a look at my fruit crisp & fruit popsicle recipes in my earlier blogs).