Good nutrition in childhood helps prevent many health problems, including obesity, tooth decay, osteoporosis and iron deficiency. National Nutrition Month is a wonderful time to adopt healthy eating and increase physical activity plans that are focused on consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices and getting daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Here are five tips for you to try during the month of March to improve your family’s health and well-being.
1: Start Good Habits Early. According to the Florida Department of Health, one out of every three kids is now considered overweight or obese. Offering a variety of healthy foods and encouraging kids’ natural tendency to be active can help set them on a path to making healthy decisions throughout their whole lives.
2. Research Florida’s Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables. Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank. Choosing foods that are at their seasonal peak often cost less at the grocery store and taste better at the dinner table. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services created the Living Healthy in Florida initiative, which highlights fresh Florida fruits and vegetables. To learn more about healthy, nutritious foods and how to access free resources, visit www.LivingHealthyinFlorida.com.
3. Model Good Eating Behavior. Children will be more likely to try new, healthier foods when they see their loved ones do so. Let your child see you pick out your favorite vegetables or fruits at the grocery store and make sure to describe the food’s taste, texture and smell. For more resources, visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet12BeAHealthyRoleModel.pdf.
4. Make Better Beverage Choices. It is very easy to ruin a day of health eating with a high calorie, high sugar drink. Instead, try sipping water throughout the day or at mealtime. Sodas, sports drinks and even juice drinks usually contain a lot of added sugar, which contains additional, unneeded calories.
5. Find Out What Your Child is Learning about Nutrition in School. Nutrition is a required component of K-12 Health Education in Florida. To find out what your child is learning, talk to his or her teacher or school about the health curriculum and nutritional programs. There are also many free resources online that you can share with your child, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s parent-friendly website (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/) that offers tips and free materials to help parents and children make healthy choices while staying within your budget.
Each day, your food and physical activity choices affect your health and your children’s health today, tomorrow and in the future. To learn more about strategies and activities designed to help Florida’s children and adults make choices about healthy eating and active living, please visit http://www.healthiestweightflorida.com/children.html.
About the Author: Michelle L. Gaines serves as the Florida Department of Education’s Health Education Coordinator since 2012. The Arkansas native is a mentor, an avid community volunteer and an educator for 25 years. Michelle can be reached at Michelle.Gaines@fldoe.org.