How to help make your child a more adventurous eater

Amita Health shared in the Daily Herald Newspaper that some kids seem to eat just about everything, while others are picky eaters.

Your first concern is to make sure your children are eating a healthy, nutritious diet, of course. But what if you also would like to add a little variety to your family meals? There are several things you can do to encourage your child to be a more adventurous eater.

First, start early, according to Dr. Joni Hamilton, a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist with Children & Teens Medical Center in Algonquin and on staff at Amita Health St. Alexius Medical Center Hoffman Estates.

“Start at a young age exposing them to different tastes and textures,” she said.

Popular “kid-friendly” meals, especially those offered by restaurants, are usually boring and rarely nutritious, and there is no need to make special meals for kids unless they have allergies or some other dietary restrictions.

“Kids can eat everything that adults can eat,” Hamilton said.

You also should include young children in meal planning and preparation, so that they feel more empowered in making their own food choices.

“From toddler age, kids can get involved in things like grocery shopping and helping to choose foods at the store. Then, while you are cooking, you can give them little chores in the kitchen like washing vegetables,” Hamilton said. Read more

Outside the box lunch ideas

Advocate Children’s Hospital shared in their Children’s Health Series that with children returning to school after a long winter break, Dr. Vidhya Viswanathan, a pediatric endocrinologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital, provides seven tips to keep your child’s lunch healthy and fun:

1) Use a whole wheat tortilla: Add whole grains to our child’s lunch by using a whole wheat tortilla or sandwich wrap instead of white sandwich bread.

2) Cut sandwiches into fun shapes: Jazz up the look of your child’s sandwich by using a cookie cutter to cut the cheeses, meats and bread into fun shapes like a flower or star.

3) Make ants on a log: Create this healthy and classic snack by filling a celery stick with low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter and placing raisins on top.

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School lunches to help your child power through the afternoon

Mary Gardner, RD, LDN, an outpatient dietitian at Edward Hospital., shared in an Edward-Elmhurt Helth’s  Healthy Driven Blog that as adults, we’re all too familiar with the afternoon slump — that time of day when you have a few hours to go but you’re starting to crave sugar and/or nod off at your desk.Kids go through that, too. But it’s preventable (for adults, too!) if you eat the right food for lunch.

And, let’s face it, besides wanting our kids to have energy for the school day, nobody wants a starving, cranky kid getting off the bus after school.

A mix of protein and complex carbohydrates can provide the kick your kids need to get through the afternoon and still have energy to play (after homework’s done) when they get home.

Keep these tips in mind when you buy food for lunches:

  • Avoid refined carbs. Choose fiber-rich whole grains, such as 100 percent whole wheat bread, tortilla wraps, bagels or pita bread for sandwiches. And brown rice, beans or lentils instead of white bread, white rice and heavily processed products.
  • Pack protein. Hard boiled eggs, low-fat Greek yogurt, low fat cheese, cottage cheese, and nut butter are great ways to get protein in your kids’ lunches. A peanut butter sandwich with whole wheat bread would be a perfect protein-complex carb combination. Or try a snack lunch of sliced turkey, low-fat cheese and whole grain crackers.
  • Don’t forget the vegetables. Veggies go well with proteins like low-fat cheese or nut butters. Try easy-to-eat finger foods like sliced cherry tomatoes, baby carrots and snap peas plain or with a hummus dip, or ants on a log (celery with nut butter and raisins).
  • Fiber + carbs = energy (and a full tummy). Whole fruit – grapes, sliced apples or pears, and orange segments – are great sources of carbohydrates and fiber.  Other ideas are: dried cereal, popcorn or a trail mix (kids love to help make this one!).

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Food For Thought

When you eat and how frequently may benefit heart health

What times someone eats during the day and how frequently may play a role in having a healthy weight and heart.According to an American Heart Association scientific statement published Wednesday, eating breakfast, avoiding late-night eating and mindful meal-planning are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, blood vessel diseases and stroke.

However, current research doesn’t dictate the best approach.

“There’s conflicting evidence about meal frequency,” said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Ph.D., writing group chair and associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University in New York City. She said studies have shown the benefit of intermittent fasting and eating smaller, frequent meals throughout the day.

Fasting every other day helped people lose weight in the short-term, but its long-term effects haven’t been studied, according to the statement. And there’s no guarantee that such fasting can be sustained.

“I can see scenarios where intermittent fasting can backfire,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., a statement co-author and nutrition professor at Penn State University. For example, people who fast one day could eat more than twice as much the next day, she said. She also questioned what would happen if someone who fasted regularly for lengthy periods of time – weeks or even months – then started eating regularly every day.

Because there’s not a lot of information about how people could practice intermittent fasting, Kris-Etherton cautioned against using it as a weight loss or weight management strategy until further information is available.

Eating frequent meals has also been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease risk factors, says St-Onge. One study of men showed that those who ate more than four times a day had a lower risk of obesity than those eating three or fewer times a day. But other studies have found the opposite, with a greater risk of weight gain over time in those reporting eating more frequently. Read more

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