6 Rules of Good Nutrition

6 Rules of Good Nutrition

(from the “Eat This, Not That” Crew)

1.      Never Skip Breakfast

People who skip breakfast are more likely to take up smoking or drinking, less likely to exercise, and more likely to follow fad diets or express concerns about body weight.

People who eat breakfast tend to have higher total calorie intakes throughout the day, but they also get significantly more fiber, calcium, and other micronutrients than skippers do. Breakfast eaters also tended to consume less soda and French fries and more fruits, vegetables, and milk. Breakfast eaters were approximately 30 percent less likely to be overweight or obese.

2.      Snack With Purpose

There’s a big difference between mindless munching and strategic snacking. Snacking with purpose means reinforcing good habits, keeping your metabolic rate high, and filling the gaps between meals with the nutrients your child’s body craves.

Chew on this piece of trivia: In the 20 years leading up to the 21st century (1977 to 1996), salty snack portions increased by 93 calories, and soft drink portions increased by 49 calories.

Combat portion distortion by eating healthy snacks: Triscuits and peanut butter; string cheese; a sandwich bag filled with homemade popcorn; or that classic of kid’s snack time nourishment, ants on a log.

3.      Beware of Portion Distortion

Snack portions aren’t the only things that have increased wildly in size. Since 1977, hamburgers have increased by 97 calories, French fries by 68 calories, and Mexican foods by 133 calories, according to analysis of the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey.

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine looked at 63,380 individuals’ drinking habits over a span of 19 years. The results show that for children ages 2 to 18, portions of sweetened beverages increased from 13.1 ounces in 1977 to 18.9 ounces in 1996.

One easy way to short-circuit this growing trend? Buy smaller bowls and cups. A recent study at the Children’s Nutrition Research Center in Houston, Texas, shows that 5- and 6-year-old children will consume a third more calories when presented with a larger portion. The findings are based on a sample of 53 children who were served either 1- or 2-cup portions of macaroni and cheese.

4.      Drink Responsibly

Too many of us keep in mind the adage “watch what you eat,” and we forget another serious threat to our health: We don’t watch what we drink. In fact, according to research from the University of North Carolina, Americans now slurp up nearly 25 percent of their calories in liquid form—nearly double the rate we used to drink just 20 years ago. One study found that sweetened beverages constituted more than half (51 percent) of all beverages consumed by fourth- through sixth-grade students. The students who consumed the most sweetened beverages took in approximately 330 extra calories per day, and on average they ate less than half the amount of real fruit than did their peers who drank unsweetened or lightly sweetened beverages.

One important strategy is to keep cold, filtered water in a pitcher in the fridge. You might even want to keep some cut-up limes, oranges, or lemons nearby for kids to flavor their own water with.

Another important strategy: Be extra careful about the juice you purchase. Too many “juices” are little more than sugar water masquerading as the real thing. Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry, for instance, has just 15 percent real fruit juice. The other 85 percent? High-fructose corn syrup and water. Make sure the juice you buy says “100 percent Fruit Juice” on the label, and try to choose one made from a single fruit, not a mix of high-sugar fruits like white grapes, which are commonly used in fruit juice blends.

5.      Eat More Whole Foods and Fewer Science Experiments

Here’s a rule of healthy eating that will serve you well when picking out foods for your family: The shorter the ingredients list, the healthier the food. (One of the worst foods we’ve ever found, the Baskin-Robbins Heath Shake, has 73 ingredients—and, by the way, a whopping 2,310 calories and more than 3 days’ worth of saturated fat! What happened to the idea that a milk shake was, um, milk and ice cream? Let’s be grateful that Baskin-Robbins finally pulled this monstrosity from their menus.) The FDA maintains a list of more than 3,000 ingredients that are considered safe to eat, but we’ve found reasons for concern for a number of the additives on that long list, and any one of them could wind up in your next box of mac ’n’ cheese.

6.  Set the Table

Children in families with more structured mealtimes exhibit healthier eating habits. Among middle- and high-school girls, those whose families ate together only once or twice per week were more than twice as likely to exhibit weight control issues, compared with those who ate together three or four times per week.

To combat this, one busy family I know keeps Sunday night dinner sacred—no social plans, no school projects, no extra work brought home from the office. Even keeping the family ritual just once a week gives parents the opportunity to point out what is and isn’t healthy at the dinner table.

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6 thoughts on “6 Rules of Good Nutrition

  1. Pingback: A little late…But Some Terrific, Healthy Breakfast Ideas | Lara: On the Weigh Down

  2. Pingback: 6 Rules of Good Nutrition | Lara: On the Weigh Down | Fresh Green World

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