When I was at the pediatrician’s office this week for physicals for my three boys, he kept asking me if I was limiting portion sizes for my children. Well, my kids are skinny. Their BMI (I won’t get started on how much I abhore this measuring system) is well within normal limits. So, why would I limit their portion sizes? It seemed like a crazy question after he had already told me how great they looked and how awesome their BMI was.
So, in light of this frustratingly ambiguous question – which you will likely be asked when you head to the pediatrician for school physicals, I decided to let you in on seven tips you can use to get your kids to choose healthier eating options.
1. Get your kids involved.
Talk about what the difference is between fruits and vegetables. Do a little bit of research on what nutrients each color-group provides (each color – purple, yellow, orange, red – has different phytonutrients that give it color and certain health benefits!). Talk about cooking methods and growing methods. Heck, start a window herb garden or chia head!
2. Make fruits and vegetables a bigger part of the day.
It may seem like you pay a lot in the produce department, but if you stop to consider thateach apple you eat has over 10,000 phytonutrients in it…well, that’s a lot of nutrition compared to your pound of bacon that only has fat, a wee bit of protein and lots of added chemicals and preservatives. So aim for a serving of fruits at each snack and a serving of vegetables with each meal and snack.
3. Eat breakfast.
Kick start your metabolism and feed your brain for the day ahead. Eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, whatever your family enjoys, get it ready the night before that way there are no excuses for not eating a healthy breakfast. (We like make-your-own omelets!)
4. Eat dinner on smaller plates.
The American dinner plate has grown something like 40% over the last couple decades. A ten-inch plate is all you need to fill in order to get an adequate amount of calories. Get rid of your 14- and 16-inch plates! They’re the reason you may be overeating.
5. Don’t eat out of the package.
Pre-measure snacks rather than eating them out of the package. We dish out trailmix, cookies, crackers, and other treats into small portion-sized plastic bags. That way no one ends up eating two or three servings without realizing it.
6. Order smaller portions.
Many of your favorite restaurants offer their main courses as smaller appetizers. If your favorite dish isn’t miniaturized, ask for a to-go box as soon as you get your meal and put half of it away. Then you can enjoy it for lunch tomorrow!
7. Set small goals.
Teach your kids how to set goals and help them achieve them. Aim to eat an apple a day, then use a sticker for each day that is accomplished or put a quarter in a jar for each apple eaten. Come up with a rewards system that makes sense for your family.
With regards to portion sizes, of course you want to listen to your pediatrician if he/she thinks your child’s “BMI” is outside (over) normal ranges. But for my three growing boys, they eat four snacks and three meals per day and typically ask for seconds at breakfast and dinner. I give them extra portions. But our foods are not packaged, they are fresh whole foods like raw vegetables and fruits, whole grains, or organic, free-range, unprocessed meats. Quality of food counts just as much as quantity (if not more so.)
Our family spends $1000 per month on groceries. It may seem like a lot, but we haven’t been to the doctor in over a year now – which easily saves us over $300 per year in doctor-visit co-pays. If you’d like help finding a cheap source of whole food for your family, you can sign-up to receive my free eBook; They Don’t Make Coupons for Healthy Food: How to Get Real Food Real Cheap. Find the link on our fan page!