• Be Physically Active Every Day.  Running, walking the dog, playing, swimming, biking or climbing the stairs—it all counts toward the 60 minutes of activity kids need every day.

• Choose Healthier Foods From Each Group.  Every food group has foods that kids should eat more often than others.  For example, baked or mashed potatoes are better for kids than French fries or potato chips. 

• Eat More From Some Food Groups Than Others.  Some of the color stripes representing the food groups are wider than others to remind kids to choose more foods from the food groups with the widest stripes — grains, vegetables and fruit groups.

• Every Color, Every Day.  Each food group stripe in the pyramid is a different color.  Kids need to eat some foods from all the groups every day to be healthy.

• Go Lean With Protein:  Make lean meat and poultry choices often, like skinless poultry, lean cuts of beef and pork. Choose turkey or chicken breasts, use lean ground beef or turkey, and look for lean cuts of meat (hint: look for "round" or "loin" in the name such as "sirloin" or "top round").

• Make Choices That Are Right For You.  There are many ways to eat better and exercise more.  Finding ideas that work for you and your family is the key.  For example, you might add extra fruits and vegetables to your dinner menu or make time for a family walk or a bike ride on the weekends. 

• Take One Step at a Time.  There’s no need to change what you eat and how you exercise overnight.  Just start with one new, good thing, and add a new one every week.  Perhaps you can add a fruit serving to your breakfast or switch your drink at lunchtime.  Once you’ve mastered those changes, try adding some “movement” to your day by walking or bike riding rather than driving to school, work or other places.


Did you know that including some protein in meals and snacks may have benefits for your kids way beyond the great taste they have?  Check it out:

d According to recent studies, including protein in meals and snacks can keep hunger pangs at bay.  Benefit:  longer stretches between meals may translate into fewer calories over the course of a day—a big deal if your child is one of the estimated 12 million children struggling with a weight issue.
Many protein foods such as skinless poultry, lean beef and pork are packed with nutrients such as iron, zinc, and B vitamins.  Benefit:  kids may feel good, may stay healthier, and may do better in school over time.
d Protein foods have a low glycemic index (see The Glycemic Index, Simpler).  Benefit:  blood sugar and insulin stay on even keel after meals, which may affect how kids behave in the short term, and keep their body’s biochemistry (triglycerides, C-reactive protein, HDL levels) going in the right direction over the long term.

Meat & Beans:  Go Lean with Protein
Key Recommendations for Kids ages 6 to 11 years old:

  • Eat 5 oz. every day.
  • Eat lean or low-fat meat, chicken, turkey and fish.  Ask for it baked, broiled or grilled – not fried.
  • It’s nutty, but true. Nuts, seeds, peas, and beans are all great sources of protein, too.

Tips for Parents:

  • Try lower fat versions of kid-favorites such as bologna and hot dogs.
  • Make your own “nuggets” and “sticks” by dipping turkey, chicken or fish in equal parts of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350 F for 15 to 20 minutes.

Grains: Make Half Your Grains Whole
Key Recommendations for Kids ages 6 to 11 years old:

  • Eat 6 oz. every day:  at least half should be whole grain.
  • Start smart with breakfast.  Look for whole-grain cereals.
  • Just because bread is brown doesn’t mean it’s whole grain.  Search the ingredients list to make sure the first word is “whole” (like “whole wheat”).

Tips for Parents:

  • Whole grains include foods such oatmeal and popcorn. 
  • It may take a few tries but brown rice and whole-wheat pasta are great options for kids.
  • If your kids don’t like “whole-wheat” bread, try different brands.  Some breads have “softer” textures than others.

Vegetables:  Vary Your Veggies
Key Recommendations for Kids ages 6 to 11 years old:

  • Eat 2 ½ cups every day.
  • Color your plate with all kinds of great-tasting veggies.
  • What’s green and orange and tastes good?  Veggies! Go dark green with broccoli and spinach, or try orange ones like carrots and sweet potatoes.

Tips for Parents:

  • Many kids prefer their vegetables raw.  Try offering them baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumber slices, broccoli florets, or green pepper strips.  Serve a little low-fat ranch dressing on the side and watch the veggies disappear.

Fruits:  Focus on Fruits
Key Recommendations for Kids ages 6 to 11 years old:

  • Eat 1 ½ cups every day.
  • Fruits are nature’s treats—sweet and delicious.
  • Go easy on juice and make sure it’s 100%.

Tips for Parents:

  • Offer fruit with breakfast:  sliced bananas, strawberries or raisins are great options.
  • Pack whole fruit, applesauce or fruit cups, or small boxes of raisins with bag lunches.
  • Frozen blueberries and grapes, and pre-sliced apples in snack-sized bags make great on-the-go snacks.
  • At dinner, put out a plate of sliced, in-season fresh fruit on the table:  you’ll be amazed at how quickly it disappears—without a battle.

Milk:  Get Your Calcium-rich Foods
Key Recommendations for Kids ages 6 to 11 years old:

  • Get 3 cups every day:  for kids ages 2 to 8, it’s 2 cups.
  • Move to the milk group to get your calcium.  Calcium builds strong bones.
  • Look at the carton or container to make sure your milk, yogurt or cheese is low fat or fat-free.

Tips for Parents:

  • Offer milk, soymilk or yogurt with meals:  chocolate and flavored milks and yogurts have more sugar but offer lots of calcium.
  • Cheese sticks, drinkable yogurt and yogurt squeeze tubes make great portable snacks.
  • Try puddings and frozen yogurt or light ice cream for dessert.
  • Many foods such as certain brands of orange juice, bread, waffles, and cereal are calcium-fortified:  check the label to find out how much the food contains.

Oils:  Eat a Little for Good Health
Key Recommendations for Kids ages 6 to 11 years old:

  • Get your oils from fish, nuts and liquid oils such as corn, soybean, canola and olive oils.

Tips for Parents:

  • Change your oil:  try pan-frying with olive or canola oil; try baking with canola oil.

Find Your Balance Between Food and Fun
Key Recommendations for Kids ages 6 to 11 years old:

  • Move more.  Aim for a least 60 minutes everyday, or most days.
  • Walk, dance, bike, rollerblade -- it all counts.

Tips for Parents:

  • Get home 15 minutes earlier from work and go for a walk, shoot hoops, play catch or just run around with your kids.
  • Turn off the TV and turn on the music:  dancing requires no special equipment!
  • Why let your kids have all the fun?  Bring your sneakers and join them on the field, court or track!
  • Don’t sit around:  go for a walk or run while waiting for your kids to complete their activity.

Fats and Sugars:  Know Your Limits
Key Recommendations for Kids ages 6 to 11 years old:

  • Get your fat facts and sugar smarts from the Nutrition Facts label.
  • Limit solid fats as well as foods that contain them.
  • Choose food and beverages low in added sugars and other caloric sweeteners.

Tips for Parents:

  • Keep tabs on snack foods:  try pretzels, “light” popcorn, baked chips and whole-grain crackers.
  • Go for “light” margarine rather than butter or regular margarine.  For every day cooking or baking use oils rather than butter or margarine.  Save butter for special occasions or dishes.
  • Drink up:  choose water, calorie-free sodas, and calorie-free soft drinks rather than regular ones.

Mealtime can be a real battle when kids won’t eat what you serve.  Preparing separate meals for your kids isn’t any fun either.  Here are some ways to get your family on the same plate.

d Encourage your kids to help with meal preparation:  they’ll be far more likely to try foods they’ve helped make.
Try different versions and textures of foods you are encouraging.  For example, kids may prefer shredded and grated vegetables such as zucchini, sweet potatoes or carrots to whole vegetables.  Raw celery, broccoli, cucumbers or carrots may disappear faster than cooked vegetables.  Ground meats or hot dogs may be easier for kids to handle than other cuts of meat.
d

Serve new foods with old favorites.  If you want your kids to try a new meat or dish, offer it with other foods they tend to like such as fruit, pasta, rice, bread, or a favorite vegetable.  Encourage them to try one or two bites but don’t force the issue. It can take 10 tries or more for a child to accept a new food. 

For more ideas, see “Taming Your Picky Eater” under Feeding Your Family Fast.

 

 

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