Part III of Active Early & Healthy Bites: Home Edition focuses on increasing nutrition for young children.
Say “goodbye” to MyPyramid, and “hello” to the colorful plate! The picture may look different, but the messages are similar:
- Eat a variety of foods – the more colorful, the better.
- Eat more of some foods, like fruits and vegetables, and less of others.
However, compared to MyPyramid, MyPlate is easier to follow to help you choose what and how much food to eat.
MyPlate has four sections:Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, and Protein-and a “side order” of Dairy.
- Vegetables and fruits should take up half the plate, with a bigger portion of vegetables than fruit.
- Grains and protein foods should take up the other half of the plate, with a bigger portion of grains, and preferably whole grains, than protein.
- Cut back on foods high in solid fats (saturated fats, like butter, animal fat, etc.), added sugars, and salt.
MyPlate gives a template for balancing food groups and encourages the inclusion of all the food groups in each meal. Remember, having a colorful plate means your meal has a variety of foods and nutrients! Learn more at Choosemyplate.gov or in Healthy Bites: A Wisconsin Guide to Improving Childhood Nutrition.
According to the Teachers College (Columbia University) Center for Food and Environment, adults are responsible for deciding:
1. The foods that are bought
2. The foods that are served (a variety of nutritious options)
3. The times children will eat
4. The place children will eat (with adults eating with children, as much as possible)
5. How children will eat
Children are responsible for deciding:
1. The amount of food they eat
2. If they are going to eat
3. The foods they like to eat
It is up to us as adults to create a positive environment when it comes to meals and snacks which makes the whole experience smoother and easier. These tips can help:
- Preparing ahead as much as possible
- Slowing meal and snack times down to reduce stress and pressure
- Involving children in preparing and serving foods
- Sitting, talking and eating with children
- Offering nutritious choices so that healthy becomes the default
- Making meal and snack times consistent
- Having engaging and fun conversations while eating
There are many, many ways to increase nutrition for young children. Here are just a few ideas:
- Variety. Change things up to prevent boredom and food jagging.
- Remember Who Decides What. Following the guidelines of the division of responsibility will make for less stress and more joy when it comes to eating!
- Read Nutrition Labels. Marketing on the front of the box can’t always be trusted. Look at serving size and look for foods lower in sugar and fat and higher in fiber and whole grains.
- Eat Together. By eating together, you can promote healthy eating habits, as well as language social emotional through conversation and fine motor development from practicing serving foods. You also have the opportunity to model healthy eating habits.
- Healthy Snacks On-Hand. Definitely be prepared. By stocking low refrigerator drawers with prepped fruits and vegetables, this can become an easy go-to snack. For when you’re on the go, have fruits like bananas, apples and oranges and portioned-out whole grains available to grab on your way out the door.
- MyPlate. Remember that fruits and vegetables make up half your plate. Choose lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy for the rest of your meal.
- Portion Sizes. Young children will automatically regulate their levels of hunger and satiation if you let them. By allowing them serve their own portions and providing developmentally appropriate sized plates, bowls, cups and utensils, you can support children in taking appropriate portions.
- Cook Together. Young children can lend a hand in the kitchen. Make sure tasks are developmentally appropriate and safe for the child, such as tearing lettuce, counting out ingredients, stirring or rinsing fruits and vegetables. Not only will they be thrilled that they get to help, they’ll be more likely to try and eat the food prepared.
- Don’t Forget About H2O. Never underestimate the power of water! Get in the habit of filling water bottles and taking them with you.
- Gardening. Not only will your fresh herbs, vegetables or fruits taste delicious, children can learn where food comes from, how to nurture the plants and get active outdoors!
It is important to make nutrition and eating fun and to reduce the stress, pressure and power struggles that can often come up. This will ensure that children have positive experiences, memories and connotations with healthy eating so that healthy habits are developed for a lifetime.
Parts IV through VI of Active Early & Healthy Bites: Home Edition Coming Soon!