Healthy Eating from 2 to 90: Easy Tips For Meeting Your Family's Nutritional Needs
Life can be a juggling act. Just finding the time to fix dinner and then getting your children to sit through it can be heroic tasks.
Use these tips to lighten your load and help you make healthy eating part of each family member's day:
Let's start with the "Do's":
- DO think about what you're doing now and how to make simple changes for better nutrition.
- DO consider learning more about healthy foods and healthy eating needs for different family members.
- DO give yourself credit for what you already know and for wanting to make changes to improve your family's eating habits.
Avoid these "Don'ts":
- DON'T try to change your family's eating habits overnight or by making expensive choices.
- DON'T beat yourself up for what you have or haven't been putting on the dinner table or in lunch boxes.
- DON'T get overwhelmed. There's a lot of information out there about how to eat healthy. Start small by making one or two changes that make sense to you.
- DON'T take on planning and preparing meals that place more of a burden on you. Share what you're learning to encourage cooking skills and lifelong healthy eating habits.
Putting foods into "good" or "bad" categories isn't always helpful. Instead, think of foods as nutritious or not-so-much. Then, begin to make choices. Let the words "variety" and "nutrient-rich" guide what you place in your grocery cart. The government's latest dietary guidelines recommend:
- Enjoy your food, but eat less.
- Avoid oversized portions.
- Make half your plate whole fruits and a variety of vegetables.
- Choose whole grain foods (pasta, bread) when possible.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.
- Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals, and choose the foods with lower numbers.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
- Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.
- Buy foods low in saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol and sugar. When in doubt, read the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels for information.
Boost calcium and vitamin D for younger children and teens to help build strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and is important to muscles, nerves and your immune system. A couple of ways to increase calcium and vitamin D include:
- Providing three servings (8 ounces) of low-fat or fat-free milk or other types of dairy products daily or calcium-fortified foods and beverages if consuming milk is a problem.
- Encouraging your children and the older adults in your care to get out in the sun. Sunshine is the cheapest and best source of vitamin D. Cereals, milk and some types of orange juice are also fortified with vitamin D. Tuna and salmon provide it naturally.
Like the youngest members of your family, seniors have unique nutritional needs, too. Ask your healthcare provider for guidance, and consider these tips:
- Help older adults stay hydrated by encouraging them to drink water.
- Cook veggies that may improve memory, like broccoli, cabbage and leafy greens.
- Share a beverage made with blackberries or cherries to reduce inflammation.
- Encourage regular sleeping routines for everyone as part of a healthy lifestyle.
- Be mindful of calories. The total number of calories your family needs every day depends on age, activity levels and gender. The older you are, the fewer calories you need to be healthy.