Consider the quality of your family diet because it does and will have an impact on the health of your children now and as they age.

Get your kids off on the right foot

Mom Daughter Kitchen Meal Prep

As you get your thoughts together about 2016 - and perhaps revise some of your health goals - consider the quality of your family diet as it has an impact on the health of your children now and as they age. You’ll want to establish a good nutritional foundation for them.

An interesting study from researchers at the University of North Carolina found that as levels of obesity increased in children, so did their health risks. And, by the way, severe obesity (Level 3) are increasing in this country.

The stats of this obesity study:  there were 8,500 kids between the ages of 3-19: 47 percent were overweight and 5 percent were severely obese. As weight went up, kids had higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure and higher glucose levels. These health issues can carry into adulthood.

Healthy tips for the household:

  • Enjoy family meals together, with everyone around the table, not staring at the TV or eating in separate rooms.
  • Prepare most meals at home from scratch to ensure healthy ingredients.
  • Involve the kids in meal prep when you can. Can they measure ingredients, cut up items or stir? And everyone should take turns helping with clean-up after meals.

It is unfortunate to hear about the rise in severe childhood obesity because there is a corresponding increase in risk for heart disease and diabetes. So moving forward in this new year and keep an eye on the foods that you bring home and how you prepare them.

Make sure your shopping cart has plenty of:

  • Fruits 
  • Vegetables 
  • Whole grains – whole wheat, whole oats, whole rye or barley: cereal, breads and tortillas, crackers, brown or wild rice, pasta
  • Dairy foods such as milk yogurt and cheese
  • Lean protein such as fish, poultry and lean red meats 
  • Vegetarian protein sources such as veggie burgers, nut butters and dried beans an peas
  •  Healthy fats such as oils and avocados

You can also control what you don’t bring home - sugar-packed cereals, chips and salty snack foods, sodas and sweet fruit drinks, packaged cookies and sweets, candy and ice cream.

And finally, be sure to role model healthy eating habits yourself. The kids are watching what you do.

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.