Whether you and your child are at a soccer game, Sunday school, or a community art class, snacks abound. We live in the day and age of “Snackism.” A column in the Washington Post (2015) addressed this obsession with snacks head-on. Hurley writes, “America is in the clutches of an insidious disease [Snackism], one that thrives on the good intentions of parents and leaves a trail of wet Goldfish in its wake.” I have to agree that most American parents are convinced that their child needs to eat every few hours. Half of kids in the U.S. now snack up to four times each day. Do they truly need it? No. Do they want it? Of course.
Even though we know as parents that we should limit our kids’ sugar intake, it can be easier said than done. Sugar is everywhere. In yogurt, granola bars, breakfast cereal, juice – many of the “staples” of a child’s diet. Add to that the birthday treats at school or ice cream treats following a soccer game, not to mention just about every holiday celebration, and it can seem daunting. But does sugar deserve the bad rep it has and is there such a thing as a “healthier” sugar?
One of the most common myths that we encounter at the Pediatric Fitness Clinic is that thin, small people need to eat differently than their heavier siblings or family members. Many people believe that thin people can and need to eat unhealthy to maintain their weight, whereas heavier people need to eat only healthful foods to maintain their weight. This mindset only leads to conflict at the dinner table.
The New Year brings a fresh opportunity to look at old habits. To kick off the new year, consider making one or two resolutions as a family. Most families know what they do well, as well as which habits will only nag their health long-term. If nothing comes to mind, consider the following popular resolutions:
- Build a healthy breakfast with a lean protein and long-lasting source of energy.
- Focus on health and habits, not on weight, this year.
- Make time to be active every day.
- Clean out the cabinets and start the New Year with a healthy plethora of food in the cupboards.
Good nutrition is another school supply for insuring your child’s success at school. Researchers support the fact that children and teens that eat well also learn well.
Avoid Brown Bag Boredom
Build an appetizing meal with at least 3 food groups. Ditch the sandwich and explore other options for whole grains such as pita, tortillas, sandwich thins, or rice-like grains such as quinoa, farro, and wheat berries. Load up on lean protein to make the energy last longer with fresh turkey or chicken, low-fat cheese or yogurt, peanut or almond butters and boiled eggs. Add fiber to stay satisfied with raw vegetables (carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, jicama, grape tomatoes) and fresh fruit. Enlist the troops and invite the family to build their own lunch by choosing 1-2 servings from each food group.