Maren Schmidt: Breaking bad food habits

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Maren Schmidt, Kids Talk

Maren Schmidt's "Kids Talk" column appears Tuesdays in the Craig Daily Press.

While waiting for my car at the dealership, the early morning TV talk show hostess interviewed a former 700-pound woman who confessed that before her decision to lose weight, she had never sat down and eaten a meal.

Her habit, formed in childhood, had been to snack her way through the day, never stopping to sit and eat a meal.

There is a simple way to keep at a healthy weight: Eat less and exercise more. Sometimes though, as in the case of this woman, we start poor eating habits young. When we want to change our habits, we don’t have an accurate picture of what we are eating.

Here are a few suggestions to help kids at all ages develop healthy eating habits. No nibbling. Put your food on a plate, sit down at a table with someone else and eat your food while you visit.

Make snacks filling. Try hard-boiled eggs. Fast food hint: Boil six or more and keep in a bowl in the frig. Nut butter on whole grain crackers. Fresh fruit.

Keep junk out of sight. Even better, keep it out of the house. Keep only healthy choices in the refrigerator and cupboards. Spend some time preparing fruits and vegetables to keep for quick snacks.

Watch the juice and soda. There is 110 calories in an eight-ounce serving of apple juice, almost one-tenth of the calories a three-year-old needs. There is as much Vitamin C in half an orange or half a cup of broccoli as in eight ounces of apple juice.

Offer water first. Juice and soda do not quench our thirst as well as water. To wean your children off of juice, dilute with water until water is their first choice. Also make water easily accessible and easy to take along.

Don’t sing the sugar blues. An average 4-year-old eats 17 teaspoons of sugar a day. That’s a little more than one-third of a cup, and at 15 calories a teaspoon, 225 calories.

Children from 1 to 3 years need about 1,300 calories per day with 16 grams of protein. Four- to 6-year-olds need about 1,800 calories per day with 24 grams of protein. Seven- to 10-year-olds require around 2,000 calories with 28 grams of protein. Note: An egg has six grams of protein and 75 calories.

For a 4-year-old who needs about 1,800 calories a day, eating 17 teaspoons of sugar and 16 ounces of apple juice nutritionally take more than 25 percent of a day’s needed calories.

Watch out for the hidden sugar. Look at the ingredients on packaged food. If sugar is one of the first five ingredients, don’t buy it.

Make fruit desserts. Instead of serving cakes, cookies and ice cream, try simple fruit desserts. Bake apples with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Make a simple crisp with a topping of flour, butter, and a few tablespoons of sugar. Make a fruit salad with a yogurt dressing. Our palates adjust in a couple of weeks to a diet of less sugar.

Dip. Keep a supply of yogurt and bean dips for veggies and whole grain crackers. Toddlers love to eat veggies if there is something to dip them into.

For more information about childhood nutrition visit the USDA Web site, mypyramid.gov/preschoolers.

Kids Talk TM deals with childhood development issues. Maren Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has more than 25 years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is author of “Under­standing Montessori: A Guide for Parents and Building Cathedrals Not Walls: Essays for Parents and Teachers.” Contact her at maren@kidstalknews.com or visit www.MarenSchmidt.com.

Copyright 2009.

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