Creating Healthy Habits Early

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One of the most crucial responsibilities of a parent is to keep all their little ones as healthy as possible. Sometimes it can be a little difficult in our modern society to provide children with the best food options. Fortunately there are many simple tips and tricks that can facilitate this important task.

Basic Nutrition

The USDA ChooseMyPlate Nutrition Program recommends the following daily servings for small children. If you would like to have more precise measurements for the exact age range of your child, check below for further information. Be sure to always check with your doctor or pediatrician before changing your child’s diet.

  • Dairy: 2-2½ cup daily serving
  • Recommended Dairy Staples: fat-free/low-fat dairy products such as yogurt, milk, cheese and other fortified soy products
  • Fruits: 1-1½ cup daily serving
  • Recommended Fruit Staples: fresh, frozen, canned, or dried unsweetened fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges and pineapples
  • Vegetables: 1-2 cup daily servings
  • Recommended Vegetables: fresh, frozen, or canned unsalted vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, peppers and green beans
  • Protein: 2-5 oz. daily serving
  • Recommended Protein Staples: proteins such as meats, seafood, eggs, unsalted nuts and seeds, eggs and soy products
  • Whole grains: 3-5 oz. daily serving
  • Recommended Whole Grain Staples: whole grains such as old fashioned oats, popcorn, brown or wild rice and quinoa

Additional recommended nutrition tips: Try to reduce salt, sugar, and fat intake

Frugal Pantry Staples (with average serving size)

Parents constantly have to manage the struggle of keeping up with the family budget as well as providing their children with nutritious meals. The following food list contains thrifty but nutritious foods that may help parents plan creative and healthy meals around affordable food staples for their children.

  • Apples (1/2-1 serving size)
  • Bananas (1/2-1 serving size)
  • Beans (1/2 cup)
  • Brown rice (1/4 cup)
  • Canned tomatoes (1 cup)
  • Canned tuna (3 oz.)
  • Carrots (1 cup, raw)
  • Chicken breast (3 oz.)
  • Eggs (1 serving size)
  • Frozen fruit bags (1/2 cup)
  • Frozen spinach (5 oz.)
  • Frozen veggie bags (1 cup)
  • Jarred Marinara sauce (1/2 cup)
  • Lentils (1/4 cup, dried)
  • Old fashioned oats (1/2 cup)
  • Peanut butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Peas (½ cup, frozen)
  • Potatoes (1 cup, cubed)
  • Sweet potatoes (1 cup, cubed)
  • Onions (1/4 cup)
  • Tub of low-fat yogurt (4-6 oz.)
  • Whole wheat pasta (1/2 cup)

Additional nutrition tip: To reduce the amount of wasted food, follow portion serving sizes at every meal.

Healthy Food in Food Deserts

Unfortunately, not all children live in an area where there are fresh and available food supplies within a reasonable distance due to the lack of grocery stores in the area. These urban or rural locations are called food deserts. In these areas, the only food available to these residents comes from convenience stores, gas stations, and fast food restaurants. This introduces children to unhealthy foods early. While the options are slim, some convenience stores and gas stations do provide some relatively healthy options. Those are the ones that parents should provide readily to their children whenever possible.

Examples:

  • Trail mix (be aware of sugar and sodium content)
  • Fresh fruit or prepared fruits (some convenience stores provide these fresh options
  • Yogurts (be aware of sugar content)
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Peanut butter (be aware of sodium content)
  • Cereal (be aware of sugar content)
  • Pretzels and hummus

For more information:

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