Obesity rates are at an all time high. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1/3 of the US adult population is obese (35.7 %). Since there are so many unhealthy adults this results in an increasing population of obese children and chronic disease as well. This number is only going to increase if we don’t make some changes NOW.
Yes, physical activity is essential to maintain a healthy weight but nutrition is HUGE. As moms we are the gatekeepers to what foods are available in our homes. If junk isn’t available to eat your kids won’t eat it…it’s as simple as that. Do not indulge your children by feeding them junk…we all want healthy kids.
Here is a list of small changes you can make in your kitchen that can offer your family big results. Healthy kids today will transition to healthy adults and lower their risk for chronic disease later in life.
- Eat as clean as possible. Get the junk out of your house. Do yourself a favor and get into the habit of reading ingredient labels…the less ingredients the better and if you can’t pronounce several of the ingredients on a label you definitely shouldn’t be eating it. I try to do the majority of our shopping around the perimeter of the supermarket where the produce, meats and dairy are located. Try to avoid the middle aisles that usually carry most of the processed food. Snacks like fruit snacks, Pop Tarts, Oreos, Doritos, microwave popcorn, and sugary cereal (many of the snacks I grew up eating) are packed with refined sugar and preservatives. Provide healthy choices for healthy kids. Offer snacks like yogurt with granola, apple with peanut butter, yogurt covered raisins, baby carrots or pretzels with hummus, make homemade popcorn, bake your cookies from scratch…the opportunities are endless and you can make it taste great as well.
- Incorporate as many fruits and vegetables as possible into meals and snacks. Every week I load up on fruits and vegetables and we eat them all. I make sure I incorporate fruits and veggies in every meal for my toddler. Veggies have gotten tougher and tougher with my toddler and it has even gotten to the point where he will only eat the organic pureed veggies out of the pouches but I’m ok with that for now. Luckily he loves fruit so we don’t have a problem there.
- Get rid of sugary juices and soda. I definitely grew up on juice boxes in my house and drank soda more than I should have. Replace it all with water. There is no need for the extra sugar and the empty calories. We juice our own fruits and veggies in our house and my picky toddler even drinks the beet, apple, carrot, cucumber, celery, and lemon juice!
- Eliminate all white bread, rice, potatoes and pasta products. This might seem like a big change but once you transition you won’t want to go back because you will feel so much better. I always make brown rice and have mostly replaced pasta with brown rice pasta (which believe it or not, this Italian girl approves of). We eat whole wheat or sprout grain bread and sweet potatoes.
- Include lean meat and fish in dinners whenever possible and avoid fatty meats (buy organic when you can). For example, tacos are a quick and easy dinner that everyone loves. I replace the ground beef with ground turkey, season it like I normally do and serve it as a taco salad with baby spinach, tomatoes, low-fat shredded cheese and salsa. I serve it with blue corn tortilla chips instead of the flour tortillas. This not only lowers the fat but it makes the meal gluten-free as well and still satisfies the herd with a leaner and tasty option. Being Italian we also love sausage and peppers. I buy organic chicken sausage and sauté it with peppers and onions in tomato sauce and serve it over brown rice pasta. Still good but with less fat and sodium. So many easy meals can be altered like this and help improve the health of your family. We also try to have fish at least once per week.
Now with this all being said, does my family have the occasional pizza…yes we do. Do I make a huge Italian feast at times with chicken parmesan, real pasta and bread…yup! But you have to remember that this is the exception, not the norm in my house. It’s ok to cheat once in awhile and have treats but it’s so important to stay on track with healthy food choices most of the time for healthy kids!