How to Keep Kids Healthy in a Fast-Paced Life

Being that I have two young children, I experience the daily "challenge" of feeding them.  I say "challenge" because it is difficult to give children nutritious foods when most of us don’t have time to cook meals from scratch, have picky eaters, and can’t even attempt to cook when little ones are constantly needing attention.  I am always on the lookout for better alternatives to the drive-thru, frozen meals, and take-out.  It is important that all people, especially children, get the proper nutrition including well-balanced meals and whole foods.  However, many parents don’t know what to make, where to turn for ideas or even what to buy. In fact, most parents feed their children many unhealthy foods without even knowing it.  Here is a list of common ingredients found in many foods that it is best to stay away from:

* Partially hydrogenated oils (aka, trans fats)
* Food coloring (Yellow #5, Red #3, etc..)
* Artificial Sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, Splenda, acesulfame potassium)

Now take yourself grocery shopping and I bet at least one of these ingredients is in almost everything you buy.  These ingredients are hard to avoid.  But it is possible to feed your family nutritious foods that are fast and easy to cleanup. Here are some tips:

+ Buy Store Brand items in a place like Whole Foods (usually just as cheap as what you would buy in a regular grocery store) or Trader Joe’s (which I have recently discovered is even cheaper).  Some grocery stores now have their own brand of natural foods such as Nature’s Promise, Stop and Shop’s store brand of naturals and organics.   These store brands are great for convenience items as well as frozen foods and prepared meals-to-go.

+ Buy simple foods that are easy to make such as rice (simplest to make in a microwave), baked potatoes (again, fastest in the microwave), any meat such as chicken, fish or pork (throw in the oven and use aluminum foil for easy cleanup) and buy pre-made salads or frozen vegetables that come in the microwavable pouches.

+ Dinner doesn’t have to be elaborate, just healthy and balanced. Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches on whole wheat bread, carrot sticks and applesauce makes a nice and easy balanced meal. Experiment with new foods and new ideas. 

+ When you need "kid-friendly" food that’s fast try Ian’s brand.  It’s cheaper than McDonalds and a lot healthier.  They make kid "TV" dinners and more that are healthy and yummy without all the "bad" stuff that is usually in frozen meal products.

+ Get your kids to drink water…no matter what!!!  I know many kids dont like water, but for some, it is an acquired taste.  It is up to you, the parent, to get your kids to "acquire" it.  Stop buying the bad stuff and there will be nothing left for them to drink but water, milk and juice (in moderation).  Keep in mind, children should have no more than 4 oz. of juice per day, that is the same as 1 small juice box.  Serve them watered down juice instead.

+ Get label savvy.  Read labels and look for wholesome foods, not ones with a lot of junk.  The less ingredients, the better.

Most importantly, set standards for your children.  Teach them that being healthy is important for a fulfilling and happy long life.  Be the boss and don’t let them be too picky.  It’s up to you to ensure they’re healthy.

About Kimberly Dawson, M.S.

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