“One of the best
ways to get a child to make a healthy choice is by
setting a good example.”
- Dr. Joan Griffith
assistant professor of pediatrics
Ky. (Dec. 6, 2004) -- With the holidays
just around the corner, many children are faced with
the temptation of sweets and foods that don’t
always represent the best nutritional choices.
But University of Kentucky experts
in nutrition say making the right nutritional and
fitness choices should still be a priority, particularly
during the holiday season.
Childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions
in America, according to Maria G. Boosalis, associate
professor of clinical nutrition, UK College of Health
Sciences. Parents can play a vital role in helping
children make healthy selections.
“As a parent, it’s important
to model healthy eating behaviors,” Boosalis
says. “For example, if the parent never eats
fruits and vegetables, it will be very difficult to
encourage and/or expect their child do so.”
Experts suggest these simple guidelines for a family’s
healthy eating habits:
- Plan family meals together and
use the Food Guide Pyramid as your guide to healthy
- Educate children as to where foods
fit into the Food Guide Pyramid, what constitutes
a “serving,” and the appropriate number
of servings they should eat from each food group.
- Incorporate children into meal
preparation; make it fun for them.
- Sit down and eat together.
- Increase use of whole grain products
such as 100 percent whole wheat bread, whole wheat
pastas, and 100 percent brown rice.
- Choose lean protein sources, such
as chicken, turkey and fish and select low-fat dairy
products, including milk and yogurt.
“Encourage your kids
to eat a ‘rainbow of different colors,’
especially fruits and vegetables,” Boosalis
says. “Make foods into fun sizes and shapes
and let kids help with simple preparation. Think of
kids incorporating calcium into their diets as putting
‘money in the bank.’ They are putting
calcium into their bone bank for future use as well
as for their current bone health.”
Another key element is exercise.
Children should be physically active 20 to 30 minutes
a day, five days a week. “One of the best ways
to get a child to make a healthy choice is by setting
a good example,” says Dr. Joan Griffith, assistant
professor of pediatrics, UK College of Medicine.
Experts suggest implementing
an exercise program that will:
- Encourage social development
and parent/child interaction by exercising with
a family member or friend and promote a sense of
accomplishment, boosting self-esteem.
- Decrease risk for diabetes,
high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and sleep
- Reduce or maintain body
weight, while helping build healthy muscles, bones
- Reduce depression and anxiety.
If a child has not been active,
start out slowly. That will help in sticking with
the routine that will last. It also is important to
pick something children like to do and incorporate
that into the exercise. For instance, try raking leaves
with the child. Then make a pile and jump into them.
Another consideration when starting an exercise program
with children is variation. One day it could be fun
to go for a family walk, and the next day encourage
riding a bike.
Safety also is an important
factor. Encourage your child to warm up and do some
stretching exercises together. For example, take a
time out if your child looks nauseated, dizzy, faint,
or short of breath.
For more information about
holiday nutrition or exercise, visit www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/.