Getting plenty of good bacteria, also known as probiotics, is key to keeping little stomachs happy and healthy, and yogurt is a great source of this bacteria. Limit sugary versions aimed at kids because these are often lower in protein and good bacteria. Instead, choose plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt and dress them up with a spoonful of honey and sprinkling of fresh fruit. Look for the words “live and active cultures” on the carton to ensure that the yogurt has plenty of beneficial bacteria. Don’t forget too that a cup of yogurt counts towards your child’s daily dairy servings. Most yogurts actually have more calcium than a cup of milk.
2. Limit Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates
Simple or refined carbohydrates are sugars and refined grains that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients—such as white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, white flour, white rice, and many breakfast cereals. They cause dangerous spikes in blood sugar and fluctuations in mood and energy. Complex carbs, on the other hand, are usually high in nutrients and fiber and are digested slowly, providing longer-lasting energy. They include whole wheat or multigrain bread, high-fiber cereals, brown rice, beans, nuts, fruit, and non-starchy vegetables.
A child’s body gets all the sugar it needs from that naturally occurring in food. Added sugar just means a lot of empty calories that contribute to hyperactivity, mood disorders, and increase the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even suicidal behaviors in teenagers.
If salmon isn’t a food you would think to serve to your child, then you might want to reconsider this pink fish. Wild salmon is an excellent source of high-quality protein which children need for proper growth as well as those Omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for brain development and heart health. Another plus for busy parents, salmon requires little seasoning due to natural flavor and can be baked or grilled in just a few minutes. If mercury levels have you worried, then take note of the fact that salmon is consistently rated by the FDA as one of the five fish lowest in mercury.
4. Find Healthier Junk Food Alternatives
Fast food is typically high in sugar, unhealthy fat, and calories and low in nutrients. Still, junk food is tempting for kids, so instead of eliminating it entirely, try to cut back on the times your kids eat fast food and, on the times that they do, make the healthiest choices possible.
5. Make Healthy Snacks Available
If you stock the kitchen exclusively with healthy treats, children will eat them. As your children grow, stock good snacks in cabinets and shelves that they can reach without your help.
Some kids eat more when they’re in the car than when they’re at the table simply because active play isn’t a viable alternative when you’re strapped in. Make sure you’re prepared with nutritious snacks whether you’re driving the carpool or going to soccer practice. Good choices include sliced apples, carrot sticks, whole grain crackers, light popcorn, raisins and water bottles.