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Better eating for kids

02/21/04 12:00AM By Rosemary Fifield
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(Host) Childhood obesity has become a national problem. Commentator Rosemary Fifield has some suggestions about helping kids make better food choices.

(Fifield) According to the Centers for Disease Control, 15 percent of America's children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 19 are overweight, a figure that has nearly tripled since the 1980s. This is a frightening statistic, because childhood obesity can lead to serious health complications-such as diabetes and heart disease.

To achieve a healthy weight, our kids need to eat fewer calories, burn more calories, or do both. Your kids can probably figure out how to burn more calories. They may need your help, however, in eating fewer calories.

To begin with, don't single out the overweight child, because everyone in the family will benefit from a healthy approach to eating, and the child won't feel embarrassed or deprived.

Remember that overly restrictive diets don't work for anyone. Make small everyday changes that have a better chance of leading to a healthy lifestyle over the long term. Become familiar with the concept of portion size, because even good-for-you foods can provide too many calories if you eat too much.

Look for nutrition information on packages that tells you how many servings are inside. That small bag of tortilla chips may contain two and a half servings, which means two and a half times the calories listed on the label.

Provide a nutritious breakfast that will keep the kids going all morning. Whole grains should be the first ingredient in cereals, and adding a piece of fruit will give breakfast lasting power.

Control snacks so kids get the most nutrition for the calories they take in. Good choices are nuts, whole-grain granola bars, and fresh or canned fruit.

Make sure that juice box contains 100 percent juice, and replace sweet sodas with chocolate milk.

Don't eliminate treats-just control their size. A mini, bite-sized chocolate bar can meet the craving for sweets and calm the fear of being deprived.

Rather than scooping out a bowl of ice cream, offer single-serving popsicles or lowfat ice cream sandwiches.

Even fast food can stay on your child's menu as an occasional treat if you choose to "down-size" rather than supersize. Get a single burger-rather than the mega-burger-and share the fries. Make the event, rather than the food, the center of the outing.

Finally, set the example that your children need by following these guidelines yourself. Everything is easier when you have someone to do it with, and, in the long run, you might just be the healthier for it too.

This is Rosemary Fifield of Thetford Center.

Rosemary Fifield is Education Director for the Hanover Food Co-op.


Related link:
Hanover Co-op's Better Eating for Life series is online.
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