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How I Help My Child to Eat Healthier

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Jennifer Miller Smithsburg, MD

A conversation over lunch between myself and my very handsome and healthy son:

Mom: Jesse, do you know what is in those baby carrots?

Jesse (age 4): No, what?

Mom (explaining in such excitement like I’ve just met Spiderman): Vitamin A!!

Jesse: Vitamin A?

Mom (age undisclosed): Yes, Vitamin A! And do you know what is so great about Vitamin A?

Jesse: No, what?

Mom: It is really, really good for your eyes. It helps you to see better at night! It’s soooo good for you!

Jesse: Could it help me see really good at night, like a bat?

Mom: Well, honey, bats can’t see. They use their ears to see, it’s called echolocation.

Jesse: What is that?

Mom: Well, I’m not exactly sure, ask your Dad when he gets home.

Jesse: Can I have four baby carrots cuz I’m four?

Mom: You can have as many as you want!

So, this is an example of how I get my child excited and interested in eating healthy. As a Registered Dietitian, I am knowledgeable in nutrition, and I am passing that information on to my children. Have I explained the intricacies of the Kreb’s Cycle to him yet? No, but he does know that there is something healthy in fish that is good for his brain, Vitamin C in oranges helps keep the germies at bay, and there is protein in chicken that makes his muscles get strong so he can be the best superhero he can be.

Kids love to learn and they soak in these little tidbits of information. My hope is that they will practice good nutrition once mommy is no longer there every minute to monitor what they eat. Any mom can do this with their kids; you don’t need to be a trained nutrition professional. All you need is a little imagination, excitement for healthy foods, and a love for your children and their well being. If you start teaching them the fundamentals from birth, they will never know different.

I must be clear that I am in no way a nutrition nut. As I sit typing this, my son is having a snack of ginger snap cookies and milk. But, he is drinking 1% milk and he knows that the cookies are a treat and a sometimes food, and he did eat all those carrots today, right? The point is, no one, not even RDs can be perfect eaters all the time. But we do eat healthy a lot of the time.

In addition to talking about nutrition, I am also very aware of TV time. I try to limit TV and only turn it on before nap and bedtime. We all know about the negatives of allowing kids to watch too much TV, so I am trying to train my son early that TV time is limited. We also eat at the table for all our meals and the TV is never on while we are eating.

In the summer, we grow a small vegetable garden and enjoy the fruits, or shall I say veggies, of our labor. There is nothing better than sitting on the porch swing and munching on fresh, raw, crispy sugar snap peas with your kid. Can I dare say that I think they are just as delicious as ice cream? Any day now our green beans will be ready and I tell my son they are green French fries. He knows they aren’t really French fries, but he loves them anyway.

There are so many other things I do each day to make sure my little boys are cared for. I change my baby’s diapers, I put them in their car seats, and I slather them in sunscreen before we go swimming, just like every other good mommy out there. So why wouldn’t I care for their future health and well being by feeding them as best as I can each day? Along the way I am schooling them in how to fuel their bodies healthy and with any luck they will one day finally explain the Kreb’s cycle to me!

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