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5 Healthy Eating Resolutions for Your Kids – Chicago Parent

5 minutes, 7 seconds Read

It’s the beginning of a new year and if you’re feeling the effects of recent unhealthy indulgences, your kids probably are, too. Ready to move into the new year with some healthy eating resolutions? We are too! It’s not always easy to get started, so we checked in with Vicki Gainsberg, RD, a Pediatric Gastrointestinal Dietitian at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s for some ideas.

While Gainsberg says she doesn’t love the word “resolutions,” she’s on board with helping families improve their daily eating habits. Follow along to learn some easy healthy eating resolutions for your whole family — and keep it in perspective.

“In general, if you are trying to implement new healthy habits, go slow,” says Gainsberg. Maybe focus on eating three balanced meals five days each week, then dip into something less healthy on Saturdays. “Think moderation and balance here. It’s not all or nothing.”

1. One easy, colorful way to eat those fruits and vegetables

It all starts with the basics, Gainsberg says. “What’s common among families is a low intake of fruits and vegetables,” she says, adding that some kids are happy to eat fruits but many struggle with vegetables. Her top tip is to add one or two new fruits or vegetables along with your family meals each day.

“Pick a color of the rainbow. Red is an easy one to start with, so choose one fruit that is red and one vegetable that is red,” she suggests. Challenge your kids to come up with some suggestions — like apples, strawberries, red peppers and tomatoes — and add one fruit and one vegetable to each meal and snack. The next day, choose a new color and keep it going until it becomes a habit.

2. Watch out for sugar, especially added sugar!

Some foods, like 100% fruit juice, milk and plain unsweetened yogurt, have naturally occurring sugar that provides energy. But some processed foods have more sugar added, so choose carefully, says Gainsberg.

When making choices for your family, read the nutrition labels and be on the lookout for “added sugars.” If there’s more than 10 grams of added sugar, that’s too much, she says.

And be wary of juice! Most children love fruit juice, and it’s easy to believe that drinking juice is a healthy habit. “Juice comes from fruit, but is also a concentrated form of sugar without the benefits of fiber that would be in the fruit,” Gainsberg says. “It takes four to five oranges to create one cup of orange juice, but you’d never eat five oranges at one time. Instead, eat a serving of fruit and drink water.”

Many children Gainsberg works with have narrow food preferences, but consume plenty of calories from juice boxes, sweet teas, lemonade and Gatorade, which typically contain added sugar. If this sounds familiar to your family, opt for unflavored low-fat or 2% milk, cheeses and plain yogurt (and add your own fruit), all of which provide the calcium that your child needs.

3. Focus on breakfast — for you and your children

Instead of grabbing a breakfast or cereal bar — which tends to have a lot of added sugar — start your day with a protein-rich breakfast. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Think protein plus carbohydrate, and you’ll come up with lots of solutions everyone will love, says Gainsberg.

“I love Greek or Icelandic-style yogurt because it has more protein. You can add some fruit and almonds or low-fat granola,” she says. “Or natural peanut butter or almond butter (with no added sugar) on whole grain toast or English muffins. Put strawberries or banana on top, and there you go.”

Scrambled eggs on whole grain toast with avocado is an easy option, too. Or, take some time on the weekend to create your own egg bites. Whisk eggs with cut vegetables and pour into muffin tins. Top with a little cheese, then bake. When cool, put your egg bites into a baggie and freeze. Heat and serve with fruit for a quick but filling mid-week breakfast.

4. Modify your fast food choices and frequency

If fast food is creeping into your family’s meals more often than you’d like, start by cutting down by half. “If you’re in the drive-thru three or four times a week, cut that to twice a week to start,” says Gainsberg, adding that skipping the fries and subbing in a bag of microwavable vegetables is a good option.

5. Make friends with fiber

Fiber is important for gut health, and the healthiest way to get fiber into bellies is by eating whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits. Beans are also a cheap, easy and healthy source of fiber, says Gainsberg.

“There are many types of beans: black beans, navy beans, garbanzos, lentils and more,” she says. “When your fiber intake is low, it can affect your GI health, for sure. To get regular and stay regular, you must implement a healthy, fiber-rich diet.”

A good rule of thumb is to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. This simple habit will help you and your kids meet your fiber goals.

As you’re diving in and trying to develop new habits, remember to go slow and adopt new healthy choices. Don’t go it alone! There are plenty of resources to help. Make a habit of checking in with myplate.gov for simple ideas and recipes. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (eatright.org) is loaded with food-focused information and the National Dairy Council has dozens of recipes for every meal, side dish, snack or dessert you can imagine.

You’ll be most successful, Gainsberg says, if you model healthy habits for your family.

“Be sure to model the behavior you want to see,” she says. “It has to be a whole-family affair. Not just the children, but everyone. Focus on implementing healthy eating habits for the good of everyone in the family.”

Looking for more healthy resolutions for your family? Check out these resolution ideas and tips for packing healthy school lunches from UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s. Visit UChicagoMedicine.org/Comer.

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