As a parent, providing your family with nutritious food should be a priority. For basic information about the food groups, you may refer to the "Students" tab.
Since the MyPyramid campaign was not well received by many Americans, MyPlate's main goal was accessibility. In fact, MyPlate was one of many attempts to simplify nutrition, which were included in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (USDA).While the key messages from these guidelines are to balance your eating, eat more vitamin-rich foods, and avoid unhealthy foods (USDA).
How do we measure up?
In particular, it should alarm parents that children's diets are struggling as measured by the Healthy Eating Index in 2005, with children not eating enough dark green and orange vegetables and too many high sodium, high saturated fat, high sugar, and high calorie foods (USDA).
Not surprisingly, the diet of adult Americans needs similar improvement (USDA). Understandably, many Americans find unhealthy food appealing because it is often cheap. In order to help your family eat healthy without breaking the bank, you can try tools such as the "Recipe Finder" tool on the USDA website (USDA), which allows you to feel out the cost of a potential recipe before trying it, and take a look at some tips form the United States Department of Agriculture on cutting costs of healthy foods(USDA). Here are sixteen quick tips to eat healthy on a budget (Get Rich Slowly).
Help Kids Eat Healthy
A big part of helping your children eat healthy is to provide healthy lunches and snacks. While a raw fruit or vegetable is always a good snack option, you can also find endless healthy snack recipes in cookbooks, on cooking shows, and even online. Take for example, Rachael Ray's "Apple Jack Quesdaillas" (rachelray.com). This delicious snack combines fruit with a healthy fat, cheese, without adding too many calories to your child's diet. Some foods have recently been noted for being particularly healthy. Oprah Winfrey's guest, Dr. Perricone, highlighted ten "superfoods" with exceptionally high health benefits (oprah.com). Take a look at just a few more tips from the sage wisdom of Rachael Ray.
What to Avoid
Naturally, if there are foods one should seek out, there are also a multitude of foods one should avoid. Men's Health online magazine dubs thirty food items the "Worst Foods in America."
Foods such as these are extremely high in calories and in something called saturated fat. There are two kinds of fat. Saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fat is more dangerous for your cholesterol as it is solid at room temperature. High cholesterol increases your chance of a stroke or heart disease. This should be less than 7% of your daily calories (American Heart Association).
These foods may also be high in sodium. When you take in more sodium than the body can excrete, salt builds up in the blood and can lead to congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and chronic kidney disease (Mayo Clinic).
ABC News even reports junk food may be addictive.
Causes of Obesity
Despite being associated with poor self control, obesity actually has numerous genetic, lifestyle, and even socioeconomic causes.
Some people produce too much of a hormone called ghrelin, which causes them to feel hungry even when their stomach if full, while others do not produce enough leptin, the hormone which tells the body it is full. (Conversely, people who produce too much leptin may struggle to eat enough.) CBS News discusses the relation between obesity and hormones in greater detail, and the Daily Beast also gives a defense for the genetic causes of obesity.
Aside from biology, another aspect of American life families do not necessarily choose is socioeconomic status. People living in disadvantaged areas often have limited access to exercise and sporting equipment, opportunities, and spaces (Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics), and at times, even grocery stores. An area where there is no local grocery store is called a food desert. Many people living in food deserts may go spans of time without food or may be forced to feed their families with fast food or junk food, leading to poor health.The Rural Sociological Society emphasized food deserts in rural areas, but they exist in the city and even in some parts of suburbs.
Though cost effective, fast food is a hazardous solution to feeding a family. If at all possible, avoid feeding your children fast food or other unhealthy foods such as the ones we have discussed and encourage your children to spend time away from the television and out being active. For some tips on keeping your family on the go, look at these fun suggestions from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
While you do not want to foster weight obsession or eating disorders in your children, you can have a positive influence on their health by offering healthy meals and snacks and encouraging healthy eating habits. You may want to refer to the suggested calorie intake chart on our "students" tab for an idea of how much your child should be eating every day.
As was stated earlier, weight should never become an obsession, and, as a parent, it is important to monitor children for signs of any eating disorders. Especially among teenage girls, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa may become serious health issues. While the causes of eating disorders are uncertain and varied, they often involve a skewed body image and can be related to obsessive compulsive disorder (Kids Health).
Sudden changes in diet and weight, negative body comments, swollen cheeks, brittle bones and nails, or thinning hair can all be signs of an eating disorder. Eating disorders should always be taken as a serious medical issue, needing medical attention. You can also prevent eating disorders by encouraging positive body image (Kids Health).