Dietitian shares ways the whole family can eat healthier

Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 1:44 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - National Nutrition Month is meant to encourage people to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle. That extra push may be especially needed this year, as dietitians say remote learning and working have made it more difficult for children to eat healthy during the pandemic.

“It has taken away the structure and the scheduling that the kids are used to, and so that interrupts their meal times, their activity that they’re doing,” Kelsey Parkman, a Children’s Wellness Dietitian at the Dwayne and Cynthia Willet Children’s Hospital of Savannah said. “They’re not moving to and from classes.”

“Making half your plate fruits and veggies or just making it easier to get fruits and veggies,” Parkman suggested. “Having cut up fruits and veggies for snack times.”

“We get a lot more than we need. Kids get on average 10 teaspoons a day. The recommendation for the limit is 6 teaspoons,” Parkman said. “So we can easily cut back on that by reducing sugary drinks, reducing packaged foods or choosing things with less added sugar in them, but most importantly choosing fresh foods.”

MyPlate is a set of guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture about how to portion different food groups in a meal.

“Including at least three food groups at all meals, if not four, and at least two food groups, if not three, at breakfast is what I like to think about,” Parkman said. “Always including a protein and trying to think about including as many as possible to try to maximize our nutrients. Think half plate fruits and veggies and then the rest kind of falls into place.”

To learn more about MyPlate and how to use it, click here.

If you think it’s time to help your family get back on track, Parkman said leading by example can help your kids get on board.

“It all comes back to role modeling and demonstrating what that healthy behavior is and making the healthy choice the easy choice,” Parkman said. “So whether that’s keeping the fresh fruits and veggies at eye level in the fridge or keeping water at eye level in the fridge.”

The more ways you can make your children feel included in the process, Parkman said, the more motivated they will feel to stick with the changes.

“We can set goals together. What do we want to work on as a family?” Parkman said. “So getting the kids involved in cooking and making the goals and activities.”

Although promised shortcuts or trendy diets may sound appealing, Parkman suggested working with simple, tried-and-true health guidelines.

“We don’t need to cut out food groups. We don’t need to fast for a long period of time. We don’t need to follow the latest diet trend to be healthy,” Parkman said. “Always go back to the basics. Fruits and vegetable will always be healthy. Whole grains will always have a lot of fiber. Water will always be good for you. We want to think of things that we’re doing for forever and not just changes that aren’t sustainable.”

If you have more questions or want some additional help, Children’s Hospital of Savannah offers its own Children’s Wellness Program and healthy cooking classes.

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