It will always be easier to pick up some fast food or munch on our favorite junk foods, but if we do this on a regular basis we are doing our bodies a tremendous disservice. Eating the right foods is much more than a matter of weight. Nutrition impacts every part of our bodies from the functionality of our organs, the effectiveness of our immune system, and even our brains to name a few.
With back to school upon us how can we ensure that we are feeding our families right? The Whole Foods Market has plenty of suggestions, and a fun activity to do with younger children is to plan meals using the ABCs of Vitamins! Vitamin A is essential for growth, development and a healthy immune system; Vitamin B is needed for energy, brain function, and stress management; Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant and is crucial for immune and brain function; Vitamin D is necessary in bone development and growth can be impaired when this is lacking.
For preschool through preteens it is important for parents and caregivers to model positive habits (ie practice what you preach). When going out to eat choose a healthy side for your meal because that behavior can promote a similar one with children. Trying to make sure every bite your child gets is dense with nutrients is harder said than done but there are plenty of tips available. Limiting access to junk food while providing them with alternatives that are still sweet is a great place to start. Avoid watching television while eating as this can easily lead to mindlessly eating and thus overeating. Plan ahead and stock up on healthy snacks for your kids at the grocery store and also choose whole grain options over those with refined grains.
As much as teens will state otherwise, they are still in need of your guidance as a parent. What is essential though is that the parent explains the benefits of eating right effectively and in a way their teen will understand. The teenage years can be a very stressful time, and we have all been there. This is where early practice of the ABCs of Vitamins will become useful – remember how Vitamin B aids in stress management. Teenagers need more Vitamin C, calcium and iron than adults because of the changes their bodies and brains are going through. Vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium are also needed for bone support.
Lastly, it is important to state that no matter how great of a diet we maintain we still need physical activity. So while we try and model healthy eating habits for our kids and teenagers we also need to encourage them to be active while doing so ourselves.
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