If you're like most of us, you know that you want your child to eat healthier. But sometimes it's hard to know where to start.
Like any major life change, the best thing to do is to take that first step. Make a single change in your child's diet. Once your child has gotten used to one change in her diet, you can start working on another.
Remember, the food habits your child learns when she is young will stay with her for her entire life!
To make it easier to take that first step, here are the EASIEST, BEST, and CHEAPEST changes you can make to your child's diet.
The Easiest Change: Switch to Whole Grains
Switching from white, refined grains to whole grains takes no effort whatsoever!
It's no effort on your part. You will be buying bread, rice, and flour anyway. Simply choose the 100% whole grain options!
You can use whole wheat flour in almost any recipe that calls for white bread. You can even branch out and try little known whole grain flours like brown rice, whole rye, or high-antioxidant buckwheat.
It's no effort on your child's part. Amazingly, researchers have found that children often don't even notice when whole grains are served instead of refined grains! And they usually rate the whole grain products as just as tasty as the refined grain products!
You can start this change today. When you go to the supermarket, reach for the 100% whole wheat bread.
For more information about switching to whole grains, check out this article and this article.
The Best Change: Cut Out All Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
Children drink, on average, an amazing 250 to 350 calories of soda a day! Add sweetened fruit drinks, "sports" drinks, and other sweetened drinks, and you get almost 10% of calories from sugar-sweetened liquids alone!
The human brain developed in an era where the only drink was water. Human evolution has not caught up with the food manufacturers. When you drink liquids, your brain assumes that they are non-caloric! This means that the calories consumed do not have an effect on your fullness!
This is why sweetened beverages have been singled out as one of the greatest contributors to obesity. Your child may not have a problem with obesity -- yet! But many skinny kids grow up to be obese adults if they learn bad eating habits early on.
As well as contributing to obesity, sweetened drinks contain no nutrients other than sugar. If your child is getting 10% of her calories in sugar, that means that the remaining 90% of her calories have to be extra nutritious to make up for it! If not, then she will come up 10% short in her vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients.
If you want to make the biggest impact in your child's health, start giving her only milk, water, unsweetened tea or unsweetened herbal tea for liquids. If she's used to sugary liquids she may complain at first, but thirst is a powerful force, and she will very quickly learn to like these healthy drinks.
The Cheapest Change: Eat More Beans
Beans, such as black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and garbanzo beans are some of the healthiest...and cheapest...foods.
Beans can lower cholesterol, lower blood glucose, lower blood pressure, and reduce risk of cancer. They are also incredibly high in antioxidants, with some being higher than blueberries in these valuable chemicals.
Meat, on the other hand, is associated with heart disease, cancer, and early death.
Switching one or two meals per week from meat-based to bean-based will teach your child to love the taste of these mild, starchy vegetables. Beans are an instant love -- nobody dislikes their flavor.
In addition to their health benefits, however, beans are extremely inexpensive.
Ground beef, one of the cheapest kinds of meats, costs twice as much per calorie as beans!
Switching from meat to beans is a no-brainer. Beans are healthy, they taste good, and they are cheap.
Cook some black beans in a crockpot overnight, mash them up, and wrap them in whole wheat tortillas with cheese and salsa. No child will say no to these simple and healthy burritos!
You may also enjoy these articles:
Why Children Love Processed Food -- and What You Can Do About It
25 Ways to Get Your Child to Eat Vegetables
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