As concerned parents, we want to give kids the healthiest foods possible but we are often confused by an overload of information that tells us we are doing a good job one day, but failing utterly the next. In this environment it can be difficult to be confident in the choices we make about feeding our families. As a result, we can be influenced by fads, misinformation and our own anxiety, rather than facts. Check out these four myths associated with kids and healthy eating.
Myth #1: Kids should be on a low-fat diet.
The Real Story: Children need a healthy balanced diet that includes healthy fats, because their developing brains require these elements to grow properly. Healthy fats include unsaturated fat found in olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, tuna, and salmon; plus a reasonable level of saturated fats in meat, cheese, whole milk and butter. Avoid trans fats. [aka hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” fats]. Remember the old adage “all things in moderation” when you are serving fats.
Myth #2: Low-fat foods have fewer calories.
The Real Story: Sometimes this is true. But other times the removed fat is replaced by other ingredients that can have as many calories as the fat they replaced, or even more! Often lower fat foods and higher fibre foods are packed with sugar or sodium to enhance their flavour. Always check the product label to avoid getting more calories than you bargained for from low-fat foods.
Myth #3: 100% Fruit Juice is always the best choice.
The Real Story: While 100% fruit juices can be part of a healthy diet and are preferable to fruit punches and fruit cocktail drinks, they are still very high in sugars, even though it is a naturally occurring kind of sugar. And where there is sugar, there are calories! Many nutritionists recommend limiting the amount of juice you drink or diluting the sweetness with water. So enjoy juice in moderation, but also be sure to drink lots of water and milk. Eating an apple or orange is still the best way to get your vitamin C!
Myth #4: Kids don’t like healthy foods.
The Real Story: Hungry kids eat what is closest and easiest to consume. They are not thinking about whether they are eating “healthy” food or not. Our job as parents is to take the lead and decide what will be available in the cupboard and on the dinner table. If we want our children to choose healthier options and have a healthier attitude towards food, it is as simple as making decisions about what goes in the shopping cart. Try to not be overly concerned if everything offered is not an instant favourite! Continue to offer new things along with familiar ones and focus on conversation at the table, not what is or is not being eaten. Allow children to become a little hungry between meals. This helps them to associate eating with being hungry. Stay the course. You will be happy with the results.
Ruthie Burd, Founder of the Lunch Lady is on a mission to encourage both parents and school communities to embrace healthier food environments for kids. You can learn more about the Lunch Lady by visiting thelunchlady.ca or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org