Child Nutrition: Monkey See, Monkey Do

Monkey see Monkey do- a phrase most instilled at a young age for most of us.  Some of us with children of our own, know the ever-growing importance of eating their vegetables (I didn’t say liking) at the dinner table or providing good examples when it comes to drinking water instead of soda and not giving in to ice cream EVERY TIME you go to the mall; but it’s sometimes hard to be a good role model for healthy habits.  As the most important influence in our children’s lives, it is important to debut all major food groups at snack and meal times and to instill healthy messages all along the way.  Healthy messages can be as simple as eating a healthy breakfast every day and sharing at least one meal as a family a day.  But mixed messages can be sent to your child if you grab a bear claw on your way out the door every morning or are bringing home take-out or fast-food as dinner more than a couple of times a week.  If this is the case, your child may think that these foods are the norm, and  more importantly, may not be getting enough nutritious foods from the food pyramid- especially the ones that are necessary for their growth and development.  Soda, sugar, and fast food should only be getting cameo roles in your child’s life.  Having a simple and healthy eating back-up plan can be just the right thing you need to pass on the right message to your children during busy times.  Also, incorporating a variety of different foods and squeezing in daily exercise send healthy messages to our children as well.

Your child’s food pyramid is much like the one that is set for you.  Milk & milk products, fruits, vegetables, meat & beans, and grains are the main categories your child should be eating from.  In regards to milk  The Dairy Council of California recommends 2 cups of milk and milk products a day for  2-6 and 6-8 year olds and 3 cups of milk and milk products for 9-12 year olds.

Here is the recommendation for the other food groups for 2-6 year and 6-11 year olds from  MyPyramid for Kids : *

2-6 year olds: 2 cups of Milk; 6 servings of Grains a day; 2 servings of Fruit; 3 servings of Vegetables; 2 servings of Meat & Beans

Food group, Serving Sizes, and Examples of each are as follows:

GRAIN GROUP- 6 servings a day

Portion size: 1 slice of bread; 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta; 1/2 cup of cooked cereal; 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal

Examples: Whole-grain bagels, bread, cereals, crackers, english muffins, & pasta; graham crackers; hamburger/hot-dog buns; oatmeal; popcorn; pita bread; pretzels; tortilla; waffle

VEGETABLE GROUP- 3 servings a day

Portion size: 1/2 cup of chopped raw or cooked vegetables; 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables

Examples: Artichoke; asparagus; beans-pinto, black, lentils; broccoli; cabbage; carrot; cauliflower; cucumber; green beans; greens-collard, mustard, kale; mushrooms; peas; salsa; spinach; squash; sweet potato; tomato; vegetable juice

FRUIT GROUP- 2 servings a day

Portion size: 1 piece of fruit or melon wedge; 3/4 cup of juice; 1/2 cup of canned fruit; 1/4 cup of dried fruit

Examples: Apple; apricot; banana; berries; cantaloupe; cherries; grapes; kiwi; mango; orange; papaya; peach; pear; pineapple; plum; watermelon

MILK GROUP  – 2 servings a day

Portion size: 1 cup of milk or yogurt 2 ounces of cheese

Examples: Fat-free, low-fat, reduced milk; cheese; cottage cheese; mozzarella; yogurt (Check with your pediatrician to get the okay to get off of whole milk)

MEAT GROUP- 2 servings a day

Portion size: 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish; 1/2 cup cooked dry beans; 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat; 2 tablespoons of peanut butter count as 1 ounce of meat

Examples: Beans-pinto, black, lentils, refried; beef-lean; chicken- skinless; egg; fish-baked, broiled; ham-lean; lunch meat; pork-lean; shellfish-crab, lobster, shrimp; tofu; tuna; turkey

6-11 year olds: 2 cups of Milk/Milk product for 6-8 year olds and 3 cups a day for 9-12 year olds; 6 oz of Grains a day (at least 1/2 being whole grains); 1 1/2 cups of Fruit a day, 2 1/2 cups of Vegetables a day, and 5 oz of Meat & Beans a day for 6-11 year olds.

Food Group, Serving size, and Examples of each are as follows:

GRAINS GROUP- 6 oz a day

Serving Size: 1 ounce= 1 slice whole-grain bread; 1/2 cup oatmeal, rice or pasta; or 1 cup dry cereal

Examples: Whole-grain bagels, bread, cereals, crackers, english muffins, & pasta; graham crackers; hamburger/hot-dog buns; oatmeal; popcorn; pita bread; pretzels; tortilla; waffle

FRUIT GROUP- 1 1/2 cups a day

Serving Size:  1 portion = 1 large fruit; 1 cup fruit, 1 cup 100% fruit juice; 1/2 cup dried fruit

Examples: Apple; apricot; banana; berries; cantaloupe; cherries; grapes; kiwi; mango; orange; papaya; peach; pear; pineapple; plum; watermelon

VEGETABLE GROUP- 2 1/2 cups a day                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Serving Size: 1 portion =1 cup raw or cooked vegetables; 2 cups leafy greens; 1 cup of veggie juice

Examples: Artichoke; asparagus; beans-pinto, black, lentils; broccoli; cabbage; carrot; cauliflower; cucumber; green beans; greens-collard, mustard, kale; mushrooms; peas; salsa; spinach; squash; sweet potato; tomato; vegetable juice

MILK GROUP- 2 cups a day for 6 to 8 year olds;  3 cups a day for 9-12 year olds                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Serving Size: 1 portion= 1 cup of milk, 1 cup yogurt, 1 1/2 oz hard cheese, 2 oz processed cheese

Examples: Fat-free, low-fat. reduced milk; cheese; cottage cheese; mozzarella; yogurt                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  MEAT & BEANS GROUP – 5 ounces a day

Serving Size: 1 portion = 2-3 ounces cooked meat, poultry or fish                                                                                                                                                                                                                           1 ounce= 1/4 cup dried beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1/2 oz.nuts

Examples: Beans-pinto, black, lentils, refried; beef-lean; chicken- skinless; egg; fish-baked, broiled; ham-lean; lunch meat; pork-lean; shellfish-crab, lobster, shrimp; tofu; tuna; turkey

Fats and Sweets that should be reconsidered or limited include:

Bacon; BBQ sauce, butter, cake, chips, chocolate, cookies, doughnuts, soda, candy, honey, jelly, ketchup, mayo, mustard, soy sauce, syrup

Here are 3 Bad Messages you can turn to GOOD:

No time for BREAKFAST?

YES YOU DO!

5-minute meals:

Cereal, milk, and fruit

Scrambled eggs, corn tortilla, and salsa

PB & Banana sandwich

Oatmeal, applesauce and nuts

Bagel

I’m too BUSY…

No you’re not!!

It takes no time at all to open up canned tuna or chicken to add to salad or make a sandwich on whole-wheat bread.  Every vegetable under the sun comes frozen and a canned low-sodium soup can be a healthy way to accompany lunch or dinner.  Using leftovers or freezing extra portions are a great move on your part when you get busy down the road.  Think smarter and busy can turn into balanced meals in the long run.

I don’t have the BEST type of snacks lying around the house…

YES YOU DO!

The simple basic ingredients can be used to incorporate into snacks for your tike:  Raw vegetables and fruits can be used as quick snacks and healthy dips can make the experience fun.  Mix jam with reduced-fat whipped cream cheese for apples or 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/4 hot water, 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce, and 1/4 teaspoon of dried ginger to serve with baby carrots, cucumber, pepper, and broccoli.  Other snack options include string cheese and whole-wheat crackers, whole-wheat quesadilla with low-fat cheese.  You can make DIY freezer pops by freezing light-weight yogurt, fruit juice, and frozen fruit or make your own banana ice cream by freezing a banana and blending it with a little milk when ready to eat.  You can even make your own smoothie by adding fruit and yogurt!

So the next time you see your little monkey watching you munch, make sure it something healthy the whole family can enjoy!

*Disclaimer: These are recommendations from reputable organizations, ALL changes in diet should be discussed with your pediatrician, especially if your child has food  allergies or an intolerance

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