CHEF JEFF: Keeping the kids healthyIt’s no secret that kids are becoming fatter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 32 percent of American children are overweight, while 16 percent are obese and 11 percent are considered extremely obese.
It’s no secret that kids are becoming fatter.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 32 percent of American children are overweight, while 16 percent are obese and 11 percent are considered extremely obese.
There are a lot of reasons for this, eating sugary cereal for breakfast, pepperoni pizza at lunch and fast food for dinner notwithstanding.
But there is one area that’s a growing concern to parents — providing healthy snacks for their kids.
According to a 2010 study published in the Health Affairs journal, kids eat nearly three unhealthy snacks a day. And this time of the year — with school out for most of them — that can be particularly challenging.
But it doesn’t have to be.
A good place to start is to eliminate sodas and other sugary beverages. Jennifer Haugen, a clinical dietitian with Altru Health System, says they are probably some of the worst snacks a child can have because they offer little nutritional benefit and are considered empty calories.
Instead, she says, offer calorie-free or low-fat beverages, such as skim or 1 percent milk or water, most often.
She also recommends including more fruits and vegetables, which are filled with vitamins and minerals necessary for health and fiber to keep kids full and to aid digestion.
“They also are also hydrating, which becomes very important during the hot months of summer,” she said.
Here are some ideas from Haugen to help increase fruit and vegetable snacking and decrease sugary beverages:
• Involve kids in gardening if possible. Fresh produce often tastes better and kids will like the idea that they have grown it themselves and be more open to try it.
• Make fruits and vegetables fun by making a pirate ship out of a watermelon or a vegetable face on a homemade pizza.
• Freeze yogurt with fresh fruit instead of ice cream or popsicles. This can be a nutritious — and hydrating — snack for after a game of baseball or swimming lessons.
• Expose your kids to new foods. Spaghetti squash is a fun new vegetable to try. You won’t know if they like it unless you try it.
• Try preparing fruits and vegetables it in different ways. Grill fruit. Some kids prefer the taste of raw versus cooked fruits or vegetables or vice versa.
• Involve them in menu planning, grocery shopping and preparation of foods as able. This will give you ideas and keep them involved in making choices.
• Pack a cooler with healthy snacks if you are traveling to prevent high-calorie, high-fat snacks purchases. Some examples of easy snacks to travel with include whole grain pretzel sticks or crackers, low-fat cheese sticks, dried fruit, apples, oranges and cut-up raw vegetables.
• Flavor water with fresh lemons or limes.
• Add seltzer water to a few ounces of 100 percent juice for a fizzy beverage.
• Adults should be good role models. If kids see Mom or Dad eating healthy snacks, they probably will do the same.
Another suggestion I picked up from Rick Hogan, produce manager at Hugo’s No. 8 on 32nd Avenue South in Grand Forks, sounds really good. He says to wash and freeze grapes and add them to homemade lemonade for a cool, healthy summertime beverage.
I’ll drink to that!
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.