Dietary Diversity and Children

Written By: Laura Shearer, Membership Consultant @ O2 Fitness Fuquay Varina

Despite all the information we are receiving on the importance of improving our diets, what I observe in the real world are people who rely on the same foods over and over, day after day and week after week.  I am sure we are all aware of the reluctance of children to try new foods.  It used to be that families ate together and children were expected to eat the same varieties of foods that their parents did, but this seems to be changing.

Busy Families; Bad Food Choices?

Perhaps it started because busy families started eating out more, and restaurants capitalized on this by focusing more on children’s menus.  It seems now a lot of moms have followed that lead and cook special meals for each child, rather than listen to complaining.  I think this sets people up for this phenomenon of eating a very narrow range of foods, because like developing a taste for sophisticated wines, without a wide experience with new foods, our taste buds just don’t develop to expand to try foods that are actually the best fuel for our bodies.

If every meal is based on processed starches because they store well and are accepted by everybody, we are choosing our foods for the wrong reason.  We don’t need to fill up as much as we need to fuel up.  Despite our struggles to lose weight, at the same time we seem to have a lot of people suffering from malnutrition, and this is a problem with a solution.

Improve Your Diet, Starting Now

I think the easiest system for improving our diets is to incorporate more vegetables into meals, hiding them if necessary in stews and casseroles by dicing them small.  Another way to interest children in vegetables is to have them grow them in a garden.  Assisting with meal preparation is another way, and it is a good way to teach the cooking skills kids will need when they go out on their own.

We know the importance of avoiding processed foods from the center aisles and focusing on the outside aisles of the grocery store and take the time to cook them with healthy methods in our own homes.  We also know we need a mix of colorful foods.  Presentation is particularly important with children, and beautiful and satisfying desserts can be made with a variety of fresh fruit.  Fruit and kids should go together.

If children have no interest in fruit, it is probably because they are drinking sugary drinks.  To change taste in food, the most important change is to use soda as a treat.  Once a month is a gracious plenty for a food that has no value as fuel.  Cutting it out of the daily routine is a no-brainer.

As complicated as life is and as little time as people have, one thing that solves several problems at once is to have children eating the same home-cooked meals their parents are. If everybody is eating the same thing, then we have the time to focus on nutrition.  If previous generations could do it as a necessity, we are educated enough now to know why we must follow their lead.

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