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Four Ways to Help Your Kids Make Healthier Food Choices

Posted Mar 04 2014 1:00pm

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By: Melissa McGowan, Public Health Advisor, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH

If you are like many people, you want to eat healthy and help your family eat healthy, too.  But that is often easier said than done.  As part of National Nutrition Month this March, the We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition) program, developed by the National Institutes of Health, has some tips and tools that can help you and your family make healthier food choices.

Whether you are doing your weekly grocery shopping or trying to decide what to grab for lunch, think of GO foods first.  GO foods are low in fat, sugar and calories and are “nutrient dense” (rich in vitamins and other nutrients). Examples include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, lean meats, poultry and fish, beans and nuts. Find more information on GO, SLOW and WHOA foods, including a downloadable tip sheet for kids !

You might be surprised, but one way to get kids to try new, healthy foods is to have them help in the kitchen.  Kids are more likely to try the foods they have helped make, so if you can involve your kids in making a healthy meal, it can be a win-win.  

Depending on their age, kids can help wash fruits and vegetables, tear lettuce leaves, mix and pour ingredients, measure ingredients or help slice, dice, and chop.  Try some of these family-friendly and healthy recipes to get your family involved in the kitchen and eating well!

Buying healthy foods, even on a budget, can be easier if you know what types of food to shop for in the store.  First, make a shopping list, and include a lot of GO foods.  Look for fruits and vegetables that are in season; they often cost less.  And remember that buying canned or frozen veggies and fruit without added salt or fat can be healthy options.  

When on sale, stock up on items like lean meat, fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt.  Compare brands and package sizes to find the best deals.  Often store brands cost less.  Find more information on shopping healthy .  

Making healthy choices when you go out to eat can often be a challenge.  If you find yourself at a fast food restaurant at the end of a busy day, try making healthier choices such as sandwiches without cheese, salads with low-fat or fat-free dressing, replacing french fries with sliced fruit, and swapping fried meats for grilled options.  

To cut back portion sizes, consider splitting an entry or putting half in a doggie bag to take home.  And stick with drinks like water, fat-free or low-fat milk, or unsweetened tea that have fewer calories and added sugar.  Find more tips on eating healthy on the go .

These are just a few tips and strategies to help you and your family make healthy choices.  For additional information on healthy eating and increasing physical activity, go to the We Can! website .

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