Everyone wants their child to grow up strong and healthy. But busy lives are the number one enemy to this goal. Good nutrition and a balanced diet are one of the academic success predictors, according to the research materials cited at the end of this article. Are you making these nutrition mistakes? Some may seem obvious, but others might surprise you.
A few years ago I tipped the scales at a whopping 215 pounds. That would be OK if I were 6’5″ tall, but I’m only 5’9″ so I fell in the obese category according to my BMI. I had to do something, and over the next nine months I lost 50 pounds through diet and exercise. Four years later I have kept it all off. Some of the following tips made a difference for me along the way.
- Paying no attention to serving sizes. In my opinion, this has become the most widespread nutrition mistake that adults make. We’ve become accustomed to the portions that restaurants give us so we bring those sizes into our home. Check out this excellent article on Portions and Servings from the National Institutes of Health.
- Relying on a multivitamin to provide missing nutrients. This nutrition mistake makes me think of the old Popeye cartoon – a can of spinach is all he needed to defeat Bluto. A multivitamin is a good start to the day, but it is no substitute for what your child needs. A diet filled with fatty and sugary foods cannot be compensated for by a multivitamin.
- Not reading the labels. Parents need to know what they’re feeding their children. Learn how to ready food packaging labels using this handy resource on the Food and Drug Administration’s website.
- Allowing your child to choose their snacks. Your son or daughter will always choose what they want, not what they need. I’d love to eat ice cream, chocolate, and pizza all day too, but if I did I’d weigh 400 pounds and be dead by age 50. Have healthy choices on hand for your children and guide their choices.
- Eating out of the bag or box. This nutrition mistake is closely linked to serving sizes. Mindlessly eating from the bag or box will lead to consuming double or triple the recommended serving size. Instead, measure out the proper serving size then put the box or bag away.
- Using pre-packaged breakfast or lunch meals on a regular basis. While convenient, these foods are not created with nutrition in mind. In order for them to last in your pantry or refrigerator, they are loaded with preservatives, some of which have been linked to cancer. At the very least, they contain high amounts of sugar, fat, or sodium. If you give these to your child, make them the exception rather than the rule.
- Giving your child food when they say that they’re hungry. Children, like adults, will eat when they are bored. Activities like television watching and video games are times when you or your child may eat when they aren’t really hungry. Not paying attention to your child’s meal and snack routines is a nutrition mistake that can lead to overeating or eating for pleasure in adulthood.
- Not giving your child enough water to drink. We all need water but, let’s face it, water just isn’t as good as Kool-Aid or soda to drink. And besides, don’t all of these have a water base? Sure, but there is also loads of sugar and other unpronounceable ingredients in these alternatives. Try to bump up the percentage of water per day over time so that your child drinks at least as much water in a day as everything else combined.
- Experimenting too little. Your child’s taste buds will quickly become adapted to the things that they like. It’s easy to fill up their plates with something that you know they will eat. After all, we’re busy and tired and just want the kids to eat. This can easily lead to an unbalanced diet. Mix up the colors with different types of vegetables and limit the microwaveable or meals-in-a-box approach.
- Blindly eating fast food. Most restaurant and fast food choices are high in fat, sodium, and calories. One meal can easily exceed more than a full day’s allowance in either of these categories. Grab the nutrition information found in most restaurants or on their websites and make informed choices before you order.
We can’t ignore the prevalence of convenience food. Fast food options and single-serving ready to eat or microwaveable packaging is everywhere. Since time becomes the premium commodity in the busy household, it’s tempting to spend the additional money and save hours in any given week with these nutrition mistakes. But if you will take just a little bit of time and learn about what your family is eating you can make choices that will benefit everyone.
Application Question – Can you see one or more of these nutrition mistakes that you’re making?
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