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Want Your Kids to Eat Right?

Parents know that the best way to influence their kids’ behavior is to set a good example. That’s as important with healthy eating habits as it is with good study habits. The American Dietetic Association’s 2003 Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Study found that parents have more potential to influence their children’s eating habits than anyone else. Children ages 8 to 12 said their top role models were mother (23 percent) and father (17.4 percent). ADA officials note that the findings underscore the importance of a parent’s involvement in helping their children make good choices.

It’s easier to instill good habits if parents start when their children are young. Your attitude will make all the difference. Make it clear that it is your choice to eat healthy foods, not a “punishment” or something you do because you have to, but because you enjoy the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables. “Your message will get muddled if you give your kids carrot sticks with their sandwich while you eat chips with yours,” says Lee Mannering of the Produce Marketing Association. Here are some suggestions for helping your kids develop healthy eating habits:

– Make a point of offering healthy snacks — celery

sticks and dip, or an apple — instead of empty

calories from chips or other junk food.

– Incorporate fruits and vegetables into every meal —

bananas with your cereal at breakfast, salad at

lunch, vegetables on the side at dinner.

– Experiment with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

A trip down the produce aisle at your grocery store

offers an abundance of options. Try something you

haven’t cooked before. For tips on using unfamiliar

produce, visit http://www.aboutproduce.com; this Web

site has information on choosing, storing and

cooking just about any type of produce you can buy.

– Offer your kids choices. That doesn’t mean one of

the choices has to be cookies, but you can let your

child choose between grapes or an orange for a

mid-afternoon snack.

– Shop with your kids. They’re more inclined to eat

something they pick out, so take them with you —

just skip the donut aisle.

– Work vegetables into your main courses in kid-

friendly ways — add peas to mac and cheese,

for example.

Eating the way you’d like your kids to eat means the whole family will be making healthier food choices. Here’s a recipe from aboutproduce.com that kids are sure to love; it puts a healthy twist on that perennial kids’ favorite — pizza.

Garden Fresh Veggie Pizza

1/2 red pepper (medium), sliced, 1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced, 1/4 cup yellow squash, sliced, 1 onion (small), thinly sliced, 2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil, 1/2 cup spinach leaves, torn, 1 Italian flat bread or pizza crust (12-inch), 1 plum tomato, sliced, 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part skim mozzarella cheese, 1/3 cup thinly sliced grated Romano cheese, 2 ounces goat cheese, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (2 teaspoons dried), 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped (2 teaspoons dried).

In small skillet, saute red pepper, mushrooms, squash and onion until crisp-tender in 2 teaspoons oil. Arrange spinach leaves on flat bread; arrange sauteed vegetables, tomato and cheeses on spinach.

Bake pizza on cookie sheet in preheated 450 degree oven until cheeses are melted, about 10 minutes. Mix 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar and herbs; drizzle over pizza. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Makes 4 (2 slice) servings.