A key part of balancing calories is to eat foods that provide adequate nutrition and an appropriate number of calories. You can help your kids to be aware of what they eat by developing healthy eating habits, looking for ways to make favorite dishes healthier, and reducing calorie-rich temptations[i].
Encourage Healthy Eating
There is no great secret to healthy eating. To help your children and family develop healthy eating habits:
· Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
· Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
· Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
· Serve reasonably-sized portions.
· Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
· Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
· Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
Remember that small changes every day can lead to a recipe for success!
Remove Calorie-Rich Temptations
Although everything can be enjoyed in moderation, reducing the calorie-rich temptations of high-fat and high-sugar, or salty snacks can also help your children develop healthy eating habits. Instead only allow your children to eat them sometimes, so that they truly will be treats! Here are examples of easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar treats that are 100 calories or less:
· A medium-size apple
· A medium-size banana
· 1 cup blueberries
· 1 cup grapes
· 1 cup carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 tbsp. hummus
Balancing Calories: Help Your Kids Stay Active
Another part of balancing calories is to engage in an appropriate amount of physical activity and avoid too much sedentary time. In addition to being fun for children and teens, regular physical activity has many health benefits, including:
· Strengthening bones
· Decreasing blood pressure
· Reducing stress and anxiety
· Increasing self-esteem
· Helping with weight management
How Much is Enough?
Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily. Remember that children imitate adults. Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your child to join you.
Some examples of moderate intensity physical activity include:
· Brisk walking
· Playing tag
· Jumping rope
· Playing soccer
Reduce Sedentary Time
In addition to encouraging physical activity, help children avoid too much sedentary time. Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit the time your children watch television, play video games, or surf the web to no more than 2 hours per day. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television viewing for children age 2 or younger. Instead, encourage your children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that simply involve more activity.
[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Human Weight: It’s Not a Diet: It’s a Lifestyle: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/children/index.html