If you are a busy mom like me, going to the grocery store is just one more chore in a busy week. But how to encourage healthy dietary changes? We need to make small cutbacks to our diet and lifestyle that can last. These should be practical changes that can benefit yourself and your family. Let’s start by discussing ways to reduce just 3 items in your family diet: sugar, salt, and fat.

Why should we make these dietary changes? We want to make better choices for ourselves and for our children. We know that childhood obesity is overwhelming America. More than a third of American children are overweight, and a third of those children are obese. A recent USA Today article referenced a Gerber Products study which found that more than a third of children eat no fruits or vegetables at all. Nine percent of children eat french fries daily. Many children eat hot dogs, sausage or bacon daily. 60% of children have desert daily. A third of children consume sugary fruit drinks daily. No wonder America is seeing increased childhood obesity. This is a desperate cry that we, as parents, need to take urgent action for changes. These changes must occur in our homes and on our plates as well.

Children learn what they live. Kids don’t need to be placed on a diet, but rather we all need to change the way we live and the way we eat.  They watch what we do as parents and imitate our actions. For our children to eat healthier, we need to eat healthier.

Plan that trip to the grocery store:

The first step we can take is to plan our visit to the grocery store. Plan your menu ahead of your shopping trip. It only takes five to ten minutes to sit down and make a weekly menu and shopping list. Your weekly menu should include healthy breakfast choices, easy and quick lunch choices, and at least six dinner choices. Include a vegetable and a fruit with each meal. Strive to eat five fresh vegetables and fruits each day. (Strive for five.) 

Stick to the list at the grocery store:

The next step is controlling what we purchase at the grocery store. Let your kids know that they need to help you choose healthier items. Stick to the list. Get them involved in reading labels. Teach them about the way the ingredients are listed, with the order of the ingredients listed in the amounts added. The largest amounts are written first. Show your child that if sugar is the first ingredient, that this is not a healthy choice. Watch the serving size. One bottle of flavored water may have 2 or 3 servings in one bottle. Watch for the amounts of sugar, salt (sodium), and fat on the labels.

Buy fresh whenever possible:

The healthiest foods have no labels at all. Buy more fresh fruits and vegetables. Purchase whole grains whenever possible. You want to purchase 100% whole wheat breads or cereals. Choose whole wheat tortillas instead of flour tortillas. Try the brown rice instead of white rice. Look for lean meats. Avoid processed meats. Consider adding fish or skinless chicken breasts. The more natural the food, the less the amounts of added sugar, salt, or fat.

Simple changes over the year can lead to a healthier you and a healthier family! Read more about this topic (entitled: Experiencing Cutbacks) in the spring edition of Ready, Set, Grow available in your pediatrician’s office or online atwww.readysetgrowmag.com

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