As a pediatrician, one of the most important conversations I have with parents about their children’s health is around nutrition and health education. A healthy, balanced lifestyle starts at a young age, and I prioritize helping kids develop good habits now that they can carry throughout their lives.
Nutrition is the cornerstone of a healthy life – it impacts a child’s growth and development – and it is something we talk about at every visit. Many people want to provide the healthiest options for their children, but there are barriers parents face in providing good nutrition. – limited time, money or knowledge. That’s why I focus on giving families the skills they need to make healthy choices and craft healthy meals.
In the past, health care professionals used the food pyramid as a way to demonstrate the types of food and what quantities of food you should consume at every meal. Now we recommend families follow a newer approach to eating called the “plate method,” which suggests that half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. The other half is divided equally between carbohydrates (like rice, bread or pasta), and proteins (like beans, eggs or meat). This is a straightforward way to look at what you’re eating, and it’s a simpler way for kids to visualize the correct portions.
I also recommend that families follow the 5-3-2-1-none plan, which is another simple way to think about key factors in overall health: what you eat and drink, what you watch, and how much you exercise.
The 5-3-2-1-none approach suggests the following:
5 | Choose at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables provide the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function optimally. This is especially important for children as they’re growing, and their brain and body is developing to maturity.
3 | Eat three structured meals a day. Creating a routine to sit down and eat together is a great way to eat a more healthy, balanced diet. When you prepare foods at home rather than pick up fast food, you’re more likely to choose foods that are lower in fat and calories and higher in the vitamins, minerals and nutrients our bodies need to grow strong and healthy.
2 | No more than two hours of screen time – including computer, video games or time on the phone. It can be hard for all of us to put down our phones, so set yourself up for success by creating ‘phone-free’ zones or times of day where screens are off limits to everyone.
1 | One hour of physical activity every day. Enjoy any activity that makes you move! No matter what you or your kids like to do – walking the dog, riding a bike, or playing frisbee – find something that gets your heart pumping. Bonus points for doing it together!
None | Limit sugar-sweetened drinks to “almost none.” This includes soft drinks and other fruit-flavored beverages. Sometimes sports or athletic replenishment drinks are advertised to kids, but they don’t need the extra calories and sugar that they contain. In fact, only athletes participating at an advanced level need the replacement of electrolytes touted by these marketing efforts. If you do serve juice, make sure it’s 100 juice with no added sugar. Remember, plain water is just what the body needs!
Small Steps Make a Difference
Nutrition is the foundation of your overall wellbeing and health – what you put in your body matters. I’m focused on creating healthy lifestyle choices early in life – to prevent disease and promote wellness from a young age.
I understand the challenges of feeding a family, and it’s the little choices we make every day that make a difference. That’s why I recommend parents start by implementing two or three of these changes rather than trying to overhaul your lifestyle. Better yet, get your kids involved and ask them what changes they’d life to make. You might be surprised at their enthusiasm!
CHI Memorial Pediatric Diagnostic Associates offers convenient locations in Chattanooga and Ringgold. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Trimiew, call (423) 698-BABY.