Most parents care about healthy eating for their children, but it can be difficult to translate food guidelines about ounces, tablespoons and cups into an actual sack lunch for school or a family meal around the dinner table. Doing so got easier with the Center for Disease Control’s new “MyPlate,” which has replaced the government health organization’s “MyPyramid.”
“The concepts between the MyPyramid and MyPlate are essentially the same,” explains Kara Borcherding, R.D., a pediatric dietitian at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent. “But MyPlate does a better job of helping parents – and kids – visualize what they need to be eating at every meal. It’s much more user-friendly and easy to understand.”
In fact, Borcherding uses MyPlate, along with Project 18, to help her young patients adopt healthier eating habits. And as a mom herself, Borcherding has a number of creative ideas for those picky eaters at your table.
Fruits and Vegetables
Borcherding advises getting kids involved in the selection. “Take them to the grocery or farmer’s market with you and let them pick out what they want for the week.” She also suggests incorporating a “U-Pick Day,” where family members rotate selecting the fruit or vegetable selection for the day.
Other fruit and veggie tips:
- A different take: Sometimes a different approach is all you need. Borcherding recommends making things like salsa, fruit smoothies, grilled veggies and grilled fruit to whet your children’s appetites.
- Fresh and frozen: Fresh foods can be costly, but seasonable fruits and vegetables are generally less expensive. And, while “fresh is best,” frozen is the next best thing and often more affordable for family food budgets.
- Maturely creative: Adding thinly sliced vegetables to a sandwich or wrap, or chopped vegetables to a pasta dinner, are good ways to appeal to older kids.
Getting dairy in your kids is easy — if they like milk. But if not, you need to get creative about other ways to give your child the calcium intake they need. “Soy alternatives, low-fat cheeses and yogurts, cereals and calcium-fortified orange juice are great ways to meet the daily dairy and calcium needs,” Borcherding says.
Other dairy tips:
- A new twist on an old favorite: Instead of ice cream on a cone, Borcherding recommends filling cones with yogurt, topped with berries and granola.
- Milk substitutes: If your child doesn’t like plain white milk, try flavored milk, or drinks made from water with a splash of cranberry, peach, grape, or other fruit juice.
Borcherding says that while kids need daily servings of protein, it’s a lot less than most people think. She tells parents not to worry if their children don’t like meat. They end up getting protein from vegetables, dairy and even starchy foods, which help ensure they meet their daily requirements.
Other protein tips:
- Lean and mean: She suggests cutting back fat in your child’s diet by offering fish as well as lean chicken and beef.
- Getting antsy: One of her favorite ways to give her kids protein is through “ants on a log,” celery sticks topped with peanut butter and raisins.
- Lunch ideas: Cold strips of grilled chicken with honey mustard dip, edamame, nuts, beans and dairy items such as yogurt and string cheese.
Of all the MyPlate portions, Borcherding says grains can be the most difficult for parents. But, they play an important role: supplying the body with the daily fiber it needs to aid the digestive process.
Other grain tips:
- Wholly helping: Buy whole grains – whole wheat breads, pasta, crackers, pita breads – that are marked 100 percent whole grain and contain at least three grams of fiber per slice.
- Lunch ideas: Low-fat cheese spread on whole wheat crackers; whole grain bagels topped with cream cheese-vegetable spread; wraps made with whole wheat tortillas, containing either lean cold cuts or lowfat cream cheese topped with veggie slices.
Check out project18.stvincent.org for helpful tools for eating right and getting physically active as a family. Then, visit Marsh Supermarkets and look for Project 18 and Down the Aisle tags that highlight more than 600-plus healthy food choices.