In March, we celebrate National Nutrition Month and the National Child and Adult Food Program (CACFP). ChildSavers is an administrator of this program to child care providers in Central Virginia. Last year, we provided more than 1,600 children in our region with nutritious meals. This initiative combats hunger and provides healthy meals to children and adults across the country. Nationally, CACFP provides over 4,000,000 children with healthy meals and snacks. In this blog, we talk about common things we come across regarding childhood nutrition.
Let’s be Honest About Sugar
Often times we think “just a little” sugar won’t hurt. Sugar is in almost everything we eat! It is even in things you wouldn’t expect. Ketchup, gum, bread, and many other foods are hiding sugar in plain sight. More than 25 grams of added sugar each day has been shown to have adverse effects on health.
- Reduces brain function
- Leads to over-eating
- Contributes to obesity
- Ruins our sensitivity to insulin and contributes to Type 2 Diabetes
- Promotes inflammation
- Leads to headaches
How to Reduce Children’s Sugar Intake
1. Eliminate or drastically reduce sugary drinks. This includes sport/energy drinks, sodas, lemonade, fruit punch, and even 100% fruit juice. Manufacturers of 100% fruit juice often add sugar. Even if there’s no sugar added, the process of juicing fruit typically eliminates the fiber once contained in the fruit. Thus, kids don’t feel full after drinking it and often overindulge. On average, a no-sugar-added 12-oz glass of orange or apple juice contains 40 grams of sugar. That’s the same as a can of soda.
We suggest drinking more water and milk. If you still want a sweet fix, eat whole fruit instead.
2. Serve more vegetables and fruits. Children (and even adults!) should eat five to nine servings of produce per day. This includes apples, carrots, broccoli, bananas, and peppers. Whole fruit and vegetables contain water and fiber, which helps kids feel full. In addition, research tells us that chewing is an important part of feeling satisfied.
3. Eat whole foods that aren’t processed. Eating more foods in their natural state not only ensures that you know what is in them, but eliminates added sugars.
4. Cook more at home. We realize this is a tough one. Nevertheless, the more you can cook for your family at home, the more control you have over the foods you eat. Restaurants often add sugar (and lots of salt and fat) to enhance the taste of the foods on their menu. But these additives aren’t necessary for making foods taste good.
5. Pack snacks ahead of time. If you’re out and about with your kids, it’s tempting to give in and grab a snack from the candy aisle, snack counter, or vending machine. Plan ahead and bring snacks with you, that way you can avoid this scenario. Fruits, veggies, and dips (i.e. hummus or, nut butters), trail mix, and nuts all travel well.
You are the Key to Starting Healthy Eating Habits
Simple adjustments to your everyday routine can do more than just make you healthier. It can also make you more aware of the overall quality of food that youare providing for yourself and the people you care about.
As parents, and early childhood educators, we know that getting children to try new things and eat their vegetables is a tough task. Sometimes it’s a battle we don’t want to fight. That said, it all starts with you! You, the parents, the guardians, or the educators are the key to developing good eating habits.
Ways to Promote Healthy Eating Habits in Children
- Be a role model. Teach and show them that eating healthy is a benefit for you too.
- Give them choices. Give them two healthy options and let them choose.
- Get them involved in the process. Cooking is a great way to promote healthy eating habits. There are some great kid-friendly cook books out there.
- Blend it up! Smoothies are a wonderful way to get your children on that healthy path and introduce new vegetables.
After very busy days, and in some cases busy nights, we sometimes cast aside health and nutrition. It is no secret, we forget about the “small things,” but often those small things have big consequences. So don’t forget the small side and choose healthy options for you and your children.
By Jason Muckle and Myia Jeffrey
Jason Muckle is the Nutrition Supervisor for Child Development Services at ChildSavers. He is originally from Northern Virginia but thankfully, he says, he escaped. He has lived in Richmond since 2010 and attended VCU. For most of his life, Jason has primarily worked in education, but he made a change to reflect his passion for food. Jason believes food is a vehicle for change. Currently, he teaches cooking classes to children in the city and he is looking for ways to positively change the food landscape.
Myia Jeffrey is the Nutrition Monitor for Child Development Services at ChildSavers. She is a native of Cumberland County. She currently resides in the West End of Henrico County with her husband and three children. Myia has been working in the early childhood education field for five years. She earned her Child Development Associates (CDA) credential in December of 2017. She plans to complete her bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education Spring of 2021 and continue her education shortly after. Educating children in their early stages of life is a true passion for Myia. She believes when given the correct tools, every child has the opportunity to be greater than they aspire to be.
Sources: PBS Fizzy’s Lunch Lab http://pbskids.org/lunchlab/food/tag/easy