Childhood obesity is not only reaching epidemic proportions in this country, but also around the world. The most effective way to help your children avoid gaining extra pounds is to make sure that the whole family eats healthy. Plus, if you follow nutritionist Joy Bauer's guidelines not only will your children be fit, but so will you. Everyone wins. Bauer was invited on the “Today” show to share her ten essential tips on how parents can make sure that their children eat well — and stay healthy.
1. Serve breakfast
Never skip breakfast! Studies show that kids who eat breakfast have better attention and focus in the morning. Other research shows breakfast eaters to have lower BMIs (Body Mass Index) than non-breakfast eaters.
Healthy breakfast examples:
1. Cereal with Milk and Fruit: 1 cup whole grain dry cereal with skim milk or 1% low-fat milk — and any type of fruit (strawberries, banana, sliced peaches, blueberries).
*For cereal options: Select a variety that has at least 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams or less of sugar per serving: Try, Barbara's Puffins (cinnamon or the Lightly sweetened), Multi-Grain or Plain Cheerios, Complete Bran Flakes, Kashi Heart to Heart or Mighty Bites.
2). English Muffin with Cheese: Toasted English Muffin (whole wheat, or oat bran); with tomato slices and 2 slices of melted low-fat cheese -- plus optional fruit.
3). Toast with Peanut Butter: 1-2 slices whole wheat bread, toasted with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter and a glass of skim milk. Also, the option for one piece of fruit.
4). Frozen Waffles and Yogurt: Frozen waffles, toasted (*look for calcium-fortified – whole grain) with a container of non-fat, flavored yogurt topped with berries. Or, for the protein portion of this meal, ….you may want to skip the yogurt and instead spread peanut butter on your waffles – add a glass of skim milk.
5). Yogurt, Granola and Fruit: 1/3 cup low-fat granola cereal mixed into a container of non-fat, flavored yogurt– with cut up fruit
6). Eggs and Toast: Egg white omelet made from 1 whole egg plus 2-3 egg whites – with 1 slice of low-fat cheese – any veggies – with 1-2 slices of whole wheat toast. Optional fruit.
7). Oatmeal with fruit: 1 packet of the plain or apples/cinnamon oatmeal (or ½ cup dry, plain oats) – made with water and some low-fat milk – plus fresh fruit and a glass of milk.
8) Apple slices with peanut butter. Cut one apple into thin slices and top with 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter. Include a glass of milk, string cheese, or small container non-fat flavored yogurt.
2. Balance the meals
Meals should be a combination of quality carbohydrates and protein. The addition of protein helps stabilize blood sugar levels, slow down digestion, and may ultimately leave your children feelingfuller for longer periods of time. Proteins also have a greater “thermic effect” than carbohydrates and fats, so they can slightly rev upyour metabolism after ingestion. Watch the amount of starchy carbs you’re serving your kids at each meal. Carb-heavy meals tend to be calorie-heavy meals. Be mindful and moderate starch (1 to 2 servings at each meal.) DO NOT base an entire meal around noodles, rice, or bread.
Lean proteins: chicken breast, turkey breast, fish and seafood, pork tenderloin, turkey burger, veggie burgers, egg whites, low-fat dairy, beans, tofu, chicken/turkey/soy sausages, lean ham, and lean cuts of red meat. Appropriate side starch portions: Aim for whole grains such as 1 to 2 slices of whole wheat bread, 1 cup of prepared oatmeal, 1 cup of whole grain cereals, 1/2 to 1 cup of brown rice, and whole wheat pasta … or a baked sweet or white potato.
3. Avoid liquid calories (with the exception of skim, soy and 1% low-fat milk)
Don’t serve your children fruit juice and other beverages that contain sugar. Liquid calories are digested much more quickly than solid calories – thus, sugary beverages will provide your kids with a lot of extra calories without filling them up. So it’s likely they’ll eat just as much food as they would have eaten without the extra calories. If your child has a hearty appetite and drinks 2 cups of fruit juice or soda each day, that’s 220 extra calories, which can translate into a 23-pound weight gain in a year. So, encourage your children to drink LOTS of water!
4. Stock up on non-fat/low-fat dairy products
Kids need calcium, but not the fat and calories from whole-milk dairy products (*unless they’re under 2 years of age). Switch to skim milk, 1 percent reduced-fat milk, part-skim string cheese, fat-free or low-fat sliced cheese and fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
Birth to 6 months 210mg6 months to 1 year 270mg
1 to 3 years 500mg4 to 8 years 800mg8 to 18years 1,300mg
Milk Swap: Each time your child swaps 1 cup of skim milk for 1 cup of whole milk, he’ll save 70 calories. Based on one serving a day, at the end of the year your child will save more than 25,000 calories and potentially lose 7 pounds (if he needs to lose weight). Cheese Swap: If he swaps 1 ounce of reduced-fat cheese (90 calories) for one ounce of regular cheese (115 calories), he’ll save 25 calories. And if he swaps one ounce of fat-free cheese (40 calories) for one ounce of regular cheese, he’ll save 75 calories.
5. Fill ‘em up with fiberInsoluble fiber takes a longer time to chew and provides volume to food without adding a lot of calories. While soluble fiber helps stabilize your child’s blood sugar levels, so he can ward off hunger and cravings.
6. Give them “juicy foods”
Fruits and veggies with a high water content that’s “built into the food” can help fill kids up, so they’ll eat less throughout the day. Pureed vegetable soup is a good example. Watermelon is another. Just drinking water does not have the same effect since it leaves the stomach more rapidly.
7. Provide veggies 24/7
So your child doesn’t feel deprived of food, make veggies available round the clock. They’re low-calorie and nutrient dense. Plus, when your child complains he’s starving between meals and snacks, but isn’t interested in eating veggies, you can point out to him that he mustn’t be really hungry, but instead wanting to eat out of boredom or accustomed to compulsive snacking. ALWAYS have kid-friendly veggies like baby carrots, sugar snap peas, red peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers, washed, chopped and ready to eat.
8. Limit snacks – using my 90/10 Strategy!
Encourage your child to eat healthy 90 percent of time and enjoy sweet or salty favorites 10 percent of the time. Let them choose and plan what they would like to eat for their “fun foods” 1 to 2 times each day. This also removes the feeling of being deprived of certain foods, because you’re allowing everything in moderation. And it provides kids with a sense of independence and ownership over their fun food choices. Just watch the portions and keep each item around 150 calories each. In fact, make your life easier and go for pre-portioned snacks like 100-calorie packs, fun size chocolate bars, or 1 oz bags of potato chips, pretzels, etc.
9. Make eating FUN
Cook meals with your children — they’re more apt to eat what they’ve helped prepare. Other ideas; host dinner theme nights, provide dipping stations for kabobs, use fun plates, crazy-curly straws… be creative!
10. Maximize action
Get your kids moving and keep them moving. Aim to have them active for an hour a day. Place limits on TV watching and videogame playing. And encourage them to participate in after-school sports and activities. Encourage them to go bike riding, take long walks, jump rope, play hide-and-seek, go rock hunting … anything goes!
For more information on healthy eating, visit Joy Bauer’s website at