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A Fistful of Carrots: The Healthy Way To Feed Your Child

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It's amazing how often people write on the Beachbody Message Boards concerned about the difficulty of preparing their healthy, balanced meals at the same time they're preparing their children's regular, cheesy, fried meals.

It begs the question, "Why aren't your kids' meals healthy, too?"

Many of us grew up eating macaroni and cheese and Cap'n Crunch. Because of this, it doesn't even occur to us that Junior should eat something else. Furthermore, kids can be such picky eaters, shouldn't we be happy that they're at least eating fried, breaded chicken balls and sugar water and not fasting? Probably not.

Consider two things. First off, child obesity stats are soaring in the U.S. Currently, over 25% of American kids are considered obese and, as Greg Critser points out in his excellent book, Fat Land, obesity in children can lead to a host of other problems, including diabetes, orthopedic problems, and respiratory diseases.

Secondly, even if your child is skinny as a rail. the food he's eating right now will become a foundation for lifetime eating habits. There's a very good chance that once that youthful metabolism slows, if thickening doesn't kick in, heart disease will.

Just as it's important to stimulate your kid's brain and to make sure he has plenty of exercise, it's also important to lay down a strong nutritional foundation. Here are a few tips to keep your kid eating right.

Leave the junk at the grocery store. Because you're reading this, you're not eating the stuff anyway, and your kids certainly don't need it. Nothing battles temptation like removing it entirely. That way, if little Susie's hungry, she'll have to settle for an apple.

If she's thirsty, how about a nice, tall glass of water? It's better for her than any syrupy soda and, hey, it's a lot cheaper.

Three plus two for Junior, too. When children are tiny, several small meals throughout the day is the best way to go, but when they get a little older, three main meals plus two snacks a day give your children a steady supply of energy and, just like you, their bodies process several smaller meals better than fewer big ones. This also gives you a chance to hopefully give picky eaters more variety and it gives your kids an eating schedule, which children tend to thrive on, making it easier for you to monitor what they're eating.

Small people eat smaller. Remember to serve your kids less food. Your average three-year-old only needs about 1,300 calories a day. And remember how your mom always made you finish your plate? Well, give that a rest. Insistence on a clean plate is a perfect way to encourage overeating. If you're concerned that your child might abuse a lax attitude to get straight to dessert, serve fresh fruit after dinner instead of sweets.

Turn off the tube. Unless you've blocked every channel but PBS, your kids are bombarded with ads for junky food every time they watch TV. It's sad, but there's not much we can do about it. Solution? Turn off the TV. Not only will this drastically reduce the propaganda fed to the kiddos, but it'll also give them a chance to get outside and play.

Limit eating out. I know, I know, it's just so easy to stop at Burger King on the way home from work, or pack the brood off to IHOP on the weekends. It's also easy just to walk around naked all day, but most of us find the time to put on clothes. You gotta do what you gotta do.

For restaurants, health comes a distinct third when designing meals. Food has to taste good and it has to be cheap to produce. The best way to do this is with salt, sugar, and an ocean of additives and preservatives. Furthermore, restaurants draw people in by serving huge piles of food for cheap. No one needs to eat that much, especially children. Sure, we should all eat out every now and then as a treat. But not five times a week.

What if my kid's overweight?
The most important thing to remember here is never put a child on a diet, unless under medical supervision. Their body, their organs, their brains are developing at a crazy rate. Depriving them of nutrients could hinder this. An active child should be allowed to eat as much as he wants, provided it's healthy, balanced food. So let them eat all the apples and carrots they want. It's the Popsicles, pop-tarts, and pork chops you need to worry about.

Also, keep in mind that kids "grow into" a little fat, so if Junior's a little chubby, it'll probably pass in a year or so. But if you think it's a genuine problem, please talk to your doctor.

Overweight? I wish! My kid's a picky eater!

This is pretty standard and nothing to worry about, as long as your child is gaining weight and growing properly. Nonetheless, here are a few tips.

  • Be patient. It can take a kid up to 10 times to accept a new food. Don't force it. Keep trying.
  • Try the old switcharoo! Junior doesn't like raw carrots? Boil them! She won't eat fruit? Make her a smoothie. However, don't do this in the same meal because it's super important that you. . .
  • Never pander. If the kid doesn't want to eat it, take away the food and excuse him from the table. Dinner's over. If you start making special/multiple meals just for them, you're reinforcing their pickiness and you'll soon find yourself falling down the slippery slope that ends at feeding your kid cheese puffs for dinner, just so they'll eat.

Having a child is overwhelming in so many ways. And, yes, it's a lot easier to write down these neat little suggestions than it is to put them into practice. It may not be easy, but most of us didn't jump on the parenthood bandwagon for simplicity's sake. If you can fix up your own body , you can do it for them, too.

The mission of Team Beachbody is to motivate and educate individuals about health, fitness and nutrition and the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Click here to learn more.

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