Exercise is half of the battle in keeping kids fit. Their diet is the other half. Ryan came into our class at three as an average sized child. By January, he had gained quite a bit of weight. His cheeks were fuller, his belly was bigger and while he hadn’t grown a lot taller, he was definitely wider. His mother shared her concerns with us and said that she tried to limit his diet, but that was hard to do for a three year old.
We gave her some suggestions to help reverse the trend and keep Ryan physically fit. For starters, his mother told us that he hated to eat breakfast. She figured that was okay because those were calories he wasn’t eating. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that eating a healthy breakfast can help children avoid gaining weight, because they tend to spread their calorie intake throughout the day, instead of eating one or two large meals.
We encouraged her to see a nutritionist, who made several recommendations. For breakfast she would feed him low sugar cereal with milk, or toast with either peanut butter or a low fat cream cheese, or one waffle with fruit. An eight ounce glass of calcium fortified juice was all he needed, as drinks can contain a lot of calories. Ryan typically ate a pre-packaged pizza meal for lunch. It turned out that the meal was laden with calories. Instead, she switched lunch to deli turkey, or humus and crackers, or yogurt, and she included lots of fresh vegetables with a low fat dip to go along with his main dish. She could give him one treat for dessert, such as a piece of candy or small bag of cookies. Depriving a child of something sweet isn’t necessary. Her nutritionist told her that this is his reward for eating healthy foods and that anything in moderation is acceptable.
Let’s start our kids off on healthy paths when they are young. The choices you teach your children to make now, will guide them throughout their lives.