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April 16, 2010

What's Good to Eat?

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

Childhood obesity is getting a lot of attention lately and you may have the impression that completely avoiding certain foods is the best way to slim down and prevent future obesity in kids.

It's not. 

Dietary deprivation is too drastic of an approach for children. It's unsafe. Children grow rapidly, and they have higher needs for certain nutrients, such as protein and calcium, than adults. Leaving foods out may risk nutrient deficiencies.

Plus, deprivation  always backfires. What happens when someone tells you that you can't eat a food that you love? It makes you want it that much more!  It's even worse for a child.

What's Good to Eat?

As a registered dietitian, I've had plenty of experience helping families to eat healthy. Ditto on a personal basis - I have three kids and a husband. 

If you're anything like me, you want to focus on what your family can eat, not what they should avoid. 

Naturally nutrient-rich foods are the answer to the question "What can I feed my family?"

Nutrient-rich foods include whole or very lightly processed choices that provide substantial levels of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients for fewer calories. In other words, nutrient-rich foods provide a bigger bang for your caloric buck, and they should be the cornerstone of your eating plan, and your child's.

Nutrient-rich foods include:

• Fruits and vegetables, such as apples, bananas, berries, carrots, and broccoli, and potatoes
• Whole, fortified, and enriched grains, like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice
• Fat-free and reduced-fat dairy foods, such as milk and yogurt
• Low-fat protein sources, including lean meats like pork tenderloin and sirloin steak, poultry, fish, eggs, and beans (legumes)
• Nuts and nut butters

Nutrient-rich foods are satisfying because they tend to contain more protein and fiber for the calories, and you eat less of them without feeling deprived.

Focusing on the foods you should eat is a positive idea that takes the emphasis off of what you shouldn't eat, and naturally crowds out other, less nutritious choices. So, the next time your kids clamor for cookies, whip up a sweet, nutritious treat like this fruit smoothie , which provides two nutrient-rich foods: fruit and milk.

Healthy Eating Is a Family Affair

It's much easier to feed your family fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods when everyone is on the same page.  Capitalize on the fact that children are interested in how to eat to help them do better in school and on the playing field, and they are able to grasp the idea that there are foods to grow on, like nutrient-rich choices, and there are other foods.

Speaking of "other foods," eating the naturally nutrient-rich way does not mean giving up favorites like candy, chips, and cake.  Fun foods have a place in your child's diet, but not necessarily every day. 

What Eating Pattern is Right for You and Your Kids?

MyPyramid offers eating plans based on nutrient-rich foods for healthy people from age two to 102. Find out how many nutrient-rich foods you and your family need every day at www.mypyramid.gov

 


Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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