BY HEIDI WOODARD, RESOURCE & REFERRAL COUNSELOR, CHAUTAUQUA OPPORTUNITIES
Nutrition is a topic that affects everyone from young to old. The nutritional intake of your food will affect you from the time you are born, and beyond. It is an important topic to talk to your children about. Let them know it is important to eat vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein. Take time to let them know the types of food they eat will affect their health and well being.
Everyone knows that carrots are good for your eyes, and milk is good for your bones. But don’t be afraid to discuss the nutritional value of other foods as well. Let your children be informed about the foods they are eating. There is a wealth of information at: www.mypyramid.gov/index.html You can use this site to look up a lot of nutritional information to go over with your children.
They describe a healthy diet as one that:
• Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
• Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
Try to introduce as many healthy foods as you can during your mealtimes. Try to have fruits or vegetables at every meal. Have your children pick out the fruits they like to go in a fruit salad- you can cut up the fruits and make the fruit salad together. Fruit salads can be a great addition to any meal. Add veggies to meals, but try not to load them with butter or cheese. Potatoes aren't as unhealthy and calorie rich as people think- until sour cream, cheese, or bacon bits are added to them. Be sure you and your children look at labels when you shop. Buy foods that are low in sugar, fat, and sodium.
If you really don’t know what to look for in your foods, the Internet has numerous websites dedicated to nutritional information. You can also research ideas of how to find/serve healthy foods. You can easily google “quick and healthy meal recipes” on the internet and a lot of information will be found. You can also search “healthy recipes with 5 ingredients”. Which will give you recipes for meals that are easy to make, and you probably already have the ingredients in your home. There are a lot of sources out there that will help you prepare fun and healthy meals in your home. Plus, your children can help prepare these meals- which can be the perfect time to discuss the vitamins in each food item and how they help maintain health.
Also be involved in knowing what your children are eating outside of the home. Get school breakfast/lunch menus and sit down with children and help them pick out the foods with more health benefits before they go to school. Encourage them to eat the fruit or veggies being offered in these meals. Encourage them to drink water or skim milk vs. juices which can be high in sugar. Packing a lunch that is rich with healthy foods can be a healthy alternative to unhealthier foods that might be served.
Just as it is important to be aware of what your children are eating in school it is important to know what your children are eating at daycare. One of the ways you can know if your children are getting nutritious meals is if your child care provider is part of the USDA CACFP (Child & Adult Care Food Program). This is a program that reimburses child care providers for the healthy and nutritious meals they are serving.
The CACFP program will not cost the parent money in additional day care expenses. The program was designed to ensure children are getting well balanced meals. Providers participating in CACFP have meal guidelines that coincide with the Food Pyramid. Child care providers that are part of this program are monitored by CACFP agencies such as the Chautauqua Child Care Council part of Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc. or the Jamestown YWCA.
If you monitor the foods your children are eating now, and encourage them to make healthy choices, you are empowering them with knowledge that will help keep them healthy. The habits your children develop now will continue as they grow, and establish a lifetime of healthy eating.
Heidi Woodard is a resident of Jamestown, NY. She graduated from Jamestown Community College with honors, and earned an Associates degree in Social Sciences. She also graduated from SUNY Fredonia with highest honors earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She is currently employed with the Chautauqua Child Care Council a service of Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc.