Nutrition is important for everyone, but especially for children, as it is directly linked to all aspects of their growth and development. Childhood obesity affects 1 in 6 children and adolescents in the United States. Though associated with elevated risks of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone and joint problems and sleep apnea, among other health problems, childhood obesity can usually be prevented. “Families should focus on the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles,” says Kristi King, registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. “Parents can inspire kids to eat healthfully by getting them involved in shopping and preparing your family’s meals.”
Before You Head to the Store Create a shopping list together, so kids feel like they are part of the decision making process. “Include food items from each of the ‘MyPlate’ food groups from the USDA, which include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy,” says King. Before you head out the door, grab your reusable shopping bag to reduce waste. Wash your bag regularly to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.
At the Store Once you get to the store, shop together and encourage children to pick a few new foods they would like to try. “Talk about foods’ colors, shapes, flavors and textures as you shop,” says King. “And take time to read the food labels. This not only helps kids understand nutrition concepts, but also gives them a chance to practice reading skills.”
Back at Home When you return home, involve children in putting groceries away — especially foods that require refrigeration or freezing. Refrigerate perishable food items promptly and properly. “Explain to your kids the importance of refrigerating perishable foods within two hours,” King says. “And remember, the clock starts when you pull an item from the refrigerated case at the store, so head straight home after your shopping trip if you have perishables in the car.” For more healthful eating tips, recipes, videos and more, visit KidsEatRight.org. As role models, parents and caregivers play a vital role in children’s nutrition — teaching children about healthful foods and making sure kids get enough physical activity each day. “Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area to ensure your family is getting all of the necessary nutrients,” says King.