Making smart healthy choices when it comes to deciding what to eat and feed our families is a lot easier than it is made out to be. All it needs is a bit of planning.
The food provides us with the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that our body needs to function. Good food choices are especially important for children’s growing bodies and minds. Smart choices have both immediate and long-lasting benefits for you and your family.
Keeping healthy foods around the house for meals and snacks; saving desserts and treats for special occasions and involving children in meal planning and cooking, are just some of the ways of introducing a healthier diet into homes
Incidentally, healthier diets do not have to cost more, provided that you have the right attitude, make the right food choices, and try to cook at home. With some planning, anyone can prepare meals that are tasty, affordable, and nutrient rich.
Divide food into three categories. Category one should include foods that are low in unhealthy fats, sugar and calories, which are good to eat at any time. This category includes fruits; vegetables; whole-grain cereals, breads, and pastas; fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese; fat-trimmed and lean meats; fish; beans; and water.
Category two foods should be eaten less often and include non-whole-grain bread, rice, and pasta; peanut butter; granola; pretzels; and fruit juices.
Category three should include foods that are eaten only once in a while, such as French fries, doughnuts; whole milk, full-fat cheese; hot dogs, fried fish and chicken; candy and soda.
One easy way to eat more nutritiously is to pack healthy lunches — both for yourself and your kids. Work with your child to make a lunch using whole-grain bread, wraps, or pita pockets filled with lean meats or cheese, vegetables, and nut butters or spreads, such as hummus. Pack vegetables such as carrots, snap peas and cucumbers, or any fresh fruit that is currently in season. Teens can learn to pack their own lunches with a healthy variety of foods.
When you are grocery shopping, use the Nutrition Facts label to help guide you to limit the nutrients you want to cut back on, such as sodium and unhealthy saturated fat. You can also use it to make sure you are getting plenty of the nutrients you need, such as calcium and iron.
When reading the label, start at the top. Look at the serving size. Next, look at the calorie count. Then move on to the nutrients, where it lists the amount and daily values experts recommend. Remember that what you might eat as one portion can be multiple servings. For example, if you eat one bag of chips but the label says there are 3 servings in a bag, you need to multiply all the numbers on the label by 3 to find out how many calories you just ate.
Take time to build healthy eating decisions into every aspect of your family’s life. If you are a parent, start talking with kids at an early age about health and nutrition. And practice what you preach. Make healthy food choices yourself so you can set a good example for your kids. Also, teaching children to cook simple, tasty, and healthy meals when they are young is a skill that will stay with them throughout their lives.