Each week in Moms Talk, our Moms Council of local parents takes your questions, gives advice and shares solutions.
Today, we tackle the question of how to teach your child to “eat the rainbow,” which includes introducing healthy eating choices in a variety of colors into one’s diet to boost nutritional value. March is National Nutrition Month, and the theme is Eat Right With Color, so this week’s topic is particularly timely. Grab a cup of coffee and check out what our panel of local parents has to say.
Kat Lynch: We’ve found that our son loves the idea of “eating the rainbow,” and there are a lot of online resources (recipes, tools, etc) to teach younger kids the idea. Here are a few links:
- Rainbow recipes, from squidoo.com
- Tips for helping kids Eat Right With Color from PBS Kitchen Explorers
A few things that we have found helpful at our house:
- When snacking, focus on fruits and vegetables and limit or skip processed foods. Most young kids need one or more snacks during the day, so it offers multiple daily opportunities to get colorful carrots, pears, blueberries, cucumbers and other foods into them.
- Make “eating your rainbow” a game for kids. It gives them a great feeling of accomplishment when they rattle off all the colors they’ve eaten each day. Younger kids might enjoy a sticker chart they can fill out.
- Show kids how the “old standards” come in many colors. Compare white parsnips and orange carrots; buy a mix of yellow, red and purple potatoes; slice open white and red grapefruits, or regular and blood oranges. See if kids can taste a color difference.
- Go for efficiency and prepare meals that use both fruits and veggies. The fruit, spinach, and goat cheese salad as well as sausage, broccolini and grape recipe I blogged on Eating the Week are good examples.
Lindsay Barnes-Felix: Along with most parents, nutrition and proper health is very important to us for ourselves and our children. I truly believe this topic is a necessity with current statitics about obesity. But, I also think some parents may be a bit extreme, causing trauma and potential lifelong eating issues!
In our home, “we are what we eat” and follow the food pyramid. We incorporate all foods with every meal and allow three to six snacks a day, which is essential to keep our kids energized while participating in their rigorous sports. I believe a fully balanced meal and healthy snacks are key but don’t ever find it a problem for my kids to have a Rice Krispie Treat or a cupcake!
My kids are kids; they are fed what we give them, they are not forced to eat everything in front of them, they LOVE pizza night and are very healthy.
I do, however, find it most difficult in the fall and the spring to keep my kids’ bellies full. With the demands of football (five days a week, two hours a day) and baseball (five days a week, two hours a day) plus school, outdoor play time and other committed activities that are 100 percent pure physical, my kids are hungry 24/7!
I think this is another lesson children and parents learn together at a very young age. Leading by example is crucial, meaning don’t expect your kids to eat a salad with no dressing and dry chicken breast on the side while you sit there chowing down a double cheeseburger, because it just doen’t work that way. I truly believe that in order for our children to be healthy, they must learn from the most influential people in their lives: their parents.
Tracy Evans: This document, “Kids Eat Healthy,” is provided by my colleagues from the Nutrition and Physical Activity Unit within the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. One of the best contributions is the table it provides, indicating appropriate portion sizes based on the child’s age.
Lindsay Barnes-Felix: The portions thing is big in our home. We use our “side” dishes (four to six inches), not the regular eight-inch dish, for our meals. My kids think they have a ton of food but truly have their accurate portions! It’s great! I recall after I saw this tip on Dr. Phil many, many years ago. It truly helped with portion control for the kids, and we still do it to this day with every meal.
Maryann Murray: I agree with everyone. Also, when it comes to veggies or new foods, we definitely have the one “no, thank you” bite in our house just to try to get them to keep having healthier foods.