Friday, April 17, 2009

Make a Difference in Your Child's Health

Do you spend time reinforcing good health habits with your child? There are many messages sent to children from many sources about health. Many of these messages contain false information, so it is important to help your child understand the reasons why.

Food manufacturers, for example, label foods they sell as "healthy", "natural", "trans fat free", or "low-fat". Do these claims make foods healthy? Children especially need good fats, proteins, and cholesterol for brain, heart, and other body organ system health and development. Be interested and interactive with your child about healthy choices for life. Here are some suggestions:
  • Help your child to understand the connection between a healthy immune system, which keeps you from becoming ill, and a healthy diet.
  • Avoid, as much as possible, refined sugars and processed foods. Beware of "hidden" processed foods that many people believe are healthy, whole foods such as pasteurized dairy, cereals, crackers, tortillas, store-bought breads (those that are not from sprouted or fermented grains).
  • Spend time in the kitchen with your child, helping them to learn how to make healthy, delicious foods to serve in your home.
  • Include in every meal some type of vegetable. Current health rhetoric states that we should have fruits and vegetables available, but reinforcement on vegetables at meals with no fruit, and then offering fruit for snacks will help children to understand the importance of getting enough vegetables each day (recommended servings for children are 5 - 7).
  • Breakfasts can be challenging to get in vegetables, so be willing to think differently about breakfasts and consider preparing items like eggs from pasture-raised hens with no-nitrate bacon or sausage from naturally raised beef or pork. You can incorporate all types of vegetables into omelettes such as broccoli, spinach, bell peppers, squash, and zucchini.
  • Plant a garden with your child, whether it be a community garden, a school garden, or a garden in your own backyard.
  • Teach your child about the importance of organic foods and why organics are superior to the conventionally-grown variety.
  • Become an activist in your community and encourage your child to follow along. Children learn by example and if your actions show that you care about healthy food, your children will grow to care about it as well.

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