Parents, teachers and school systems can be positive role models for children when it comes to healthy eating. Both parents and teachers must emphasize the importance of healthy eating to children. According to How to Teach Nutrition to Kids, by Connie Liakos Evers, a great place to start is ensuring that children eat nutritious snacks and meals at school because well-nourished children learn better, are healthier, more active and are absent less due to illness.
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Children are consuming increasingly more soda and sweetened beverages while their intake of milk and 100 percent fruit juice has declined. Almost a quarter of adolescents are consuming more than 26 ounces of soft drinks each day. Many snacks eaten and available to children are high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. Consequently, the total calorie intake from snacks has increased by 150 calories per day over the past two decades. This greater calorie snack consumption coupled with a decline in physical activity for many children and adolescents are two likely contributors to our nation's child obesity epidemic.
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Healthful food promotes achievement in all aspects of a child's life. Due to their small stomach volume and high energy requirements, children require frequent meals and snacks. Snacks should be nutritious and smaller versions of meals. However, many children consume unhealthy, nutrient-poor snacks that are high in sugar and heart unhealthy fats. You can help teach your children that nutritious food is needed to fuel their bodies for learning, growth, sports and play by following the guidelines below.
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1. Make Snack Preparation Easy and Environmentally Friendly
Use small, plastic containers and encourage children to bring home uneaten food. This teaches them not to waste food and allows you to see what hasn't been eaten. Food may be brought home because your child was full or because he/she didn't like it.
2. Provide Age-Appropriate Portions
Providing adult-sized portions can overwhelm children and lead them to become disinterested in the entire meal or snack. Small portions with more options lead to independence because it allows your child to choose what they want at that time.
3. Read the Nutrition Facts and Ingredients, Not Just the Front of the Box
Products may claim they contain fruit juice but look above the nutrition facts to make sure. Only purchase juices that are 100 percent fruit juice. Know the difference between whole grain and 100 percent whole grain and wheat versus whole wheat. One hundred percent whole grain and whole wheat provide more naturally occurring fiber, protein and other important nutrients. Avoid foods that contain "partially hydrogenated" or "hydrogenated" oils in the ingredient list.
More: Decoding Fat and Calories on a Nutrition Label
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