Good nutrition starts early. Making healthy choices for you and your children will help build a solid foundation for a healthier life. While making lifestyle changes can feel overwhelming, taking simple steps as a family will go a long way, and getting kids involved in the process early will make a big impact.
“What you feed your young child is important because it’s what fuels their body and provides them with key nutrients needed for growth and development,” said Shania Duzik, Registered Dietitian and WIC High Risk Counselor with Northwest Colorado Health. “By choosing to feed your kids healthy foods you are also demonstrating healthy eating behaviors that they will develop and carry into their adult lives.”
Getting your kids involved in nutrition can be fun and simple. At the grocery store, allow your child to pick out a new fruit or vegetable they would like to try. Another fun and cost-effective way to encourage healthy eating is to grow a garden as a family, or visit farmer’s markets and shop for foods that are in season, and usually less expensive.
When preparing meals, watch portion sizes and remember that portion sizes for kids are smaller. A good rule is to make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies add flavor and texture, but also provide vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Use the other half of your plate for whole grains and lean protein foods, and complete the meal with a serving of fat-free or low-fat dairy, such as milk or yogurt.
Another simple way to improve nutrition is to make family meal time a priority. Provide a calm, pleasant mealtime free from distractions such as television and phones. Eating together as a family, even once per week can have long-lasting benefits for children; including enhanced academic success, improved nutrition, and decreased behavior problems at home and school. If evenings are too hectic, try a weekend breakfast or lunch and continue to add more regular family meal times into your schedule.
While these steps are a good start, there are also many barriers to healthy eating, and having access to nutritious foods, education and support are important for pregnant women and families. The WIC program (Women, Infants and Children) is here to help local families.
“WIC helps remove some of the barriers for families to lead a healthier lifestyle by providing a supplemental food package that contains foods with key nutrients needed for growth and development,” said Duzik. “Along with providing nutrient dense foods, we provide families with nutrition education and recipes so they can get the most out of their benefits.”
WIC-approved foods include fruits and vegetables, eggs, healthy dairy products, beans and whole grain bread. There is an app to find WIC-eligible foods in the grocery store, and participants can pay for them with an e-WIC card, and receive appointment reminders, program updates and nutrition tips via text. WIC, a federally funded program, is available at Northwest Colorado Health in Routt, Moffat and Jackson counties. To learn more and see if you qualify, visit northwestcoloradohealth.org/wic or call 970-871-7653.