To Your Health
January, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 01)
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Boy reaching for a red pepper in super market. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark 4. Get children involved in grocery shopping. This proposition might sound frightful, especially for parents whose children show a proclivity toward tantrums.

So, although it might not be the best idea to take Junior with you on a two-hour supermarket excursion, try a quick trip to the farmers market or specifically to the produce section of the grocery store, and "involve the child in selecting two new fruits or vegetables to try that week," suggests Dr. James. Chances are, they'll go for what's colorful, and coincidentally, the more color, the more likely the food contains higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients the body needs.

Father and son cooking together. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark 5. Get children involved in cooking. This can result in a bit of extra cleanup, but when children become more familiar with simple meal preparation, they learn that "healthful cooking need not be complex," according to Boutin. For breakfast, ask your child which fresh veggies he or she would like folded into an omelet, or have them select a handful of berries from the refrigerator to top a bowl of cereal. For dinner, make a pizza or a calzone together using a whole-wheat crust and low-fat mozzarella. Ask your child to choose three veggie toppings, like sliced mushrooms, zucchini and chopped bell peppers, and let them load on the veggies.

Boy smiles while holding glass of milk. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark 6. Limit your child's beverage menu. What your child drinks is just as important as what he or she eats. Many beverages commonly served in the home can do great harm to a child's health. Soft drinks are the worst offenders. It's a hard-line stance, but soda should be eliminated from the home if at all possible. At 100 to 150 calories and nearly 30 grams of sugar per can, these heavily marketed beverages boast no nutritional value whatsoever and can contribute to cavities, childhood obesity and diabetes. Not to mention the caffeine, a drug that children certainly do not need. But, you don't have to worry about your child drinking too much soda if it isn't available at all.

Even juice should be limited. Each 8-ounce glass of 100 percent orange juice, a commonly cited source of vitamins and often fortified with calcium, packs 110 calories. If unlimited, multiple glasses of orange juice each day can result in the consumption of several hundred excess calories daily. The Nemours Foundation,, offers these "juicy" guidelines for parents:

  • Up to 6 months old: no juice.
  • 6-12 months old: no more than 4 ounces (120 milliliters) of 100 percent juice per day, always served in a cup.
  • 1-6 years old: 4-6 ounces (120-180 milliliters) of 100 percent juice per day.
  • 7-18 years old: 8-12 ounces (240-360 milliliters) of 100 percent juice per day.

Make a habit of offering milk and water to drink. Soymilk also is a good choice. An 8-ounce glass of low-fat milk offers 300 milligrams of calcium. Good ol' H2O is always your best bet. Children, as well as adults, often mistake dehydration for hunger. Serving more water gets children used to recognizing the signs of dehydration and desiring a calorie-free and virtually taste-free beverage to quench their thirst.

So, there you have it: Six simple ways to lay a solid nutritional foundation for your children. Remember, teaching your children the fundamentals of proper nutrition is just like teaching them how to ride a bike - once they learn, they never forget.

Julie Engebretson is a freelance writer for To Your Health. She currently resides in New York City.