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Parents had a chance to learn about healthy eating, in a workshop hosted by Army Community Service’s Family Advocacy Program. Meg Reichert, a board-certified, holistic health coach and local military spouse, presented the workshop to parents.

Eat early

According to Reichert, our liver makes the insulin while we are fasting as we sleep. “However, when we wake up in the morning, the liver doesn’t stop producing insulin, until you eat,” she said. “So, you don’t want to wait a long time after you wake to eat something. This is why people who aren’t used to eating breakfast claim to be hungry soon after they eat. It’s their bodies talking to them.”

Food is adequate fuel

Reichert suggested parents and caregivers provide kids high-energy, saturated fat and complex carbs. “Carbs are great, in my opinion. Whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, lentils, amaranth, teff and barley have a huge place in your diet and a gigantic place in your children’s diets,” she said.

“Carbs made of whole grains that are unrefined, but have fat, help in children’s brain development.” The fat could be an avocado added to a smoothie or a serving of whole-fat yogurt. And, she suggested kids who drink milk should drink 2-percent, instead of whole milk. 

Don’t overdo the sugar

The presenter warned of excess sugar and risks for diabetes, if children eat a lot of food that’s geared toward them.

“The yogurt in a tube, marketed for children, has double the amount of sugar in one serving that the USDA says a grown woman should have in a day,” she said.

“More kids are being diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes, which is usually adult-onset diabetes, than Type 1, which is adolescent/childhood diabetes,” Reichert said, adding that Type 2 is 100-percent manageable through diet and exercise.

“When we’re looking at why 25 percent of our preschoolers are overweight or obese, it’s because we think we’re giving our kids healthy food,” she said.

Changes

“We all know that everyone’s tastes evolve over time,” Reichert said. “Infants really crave sweet things, as breast milk and formulas are both sweet. They know they need this to survive. Some sweeter foods include carrots, corn, sweet potatoes and fruit.”

After four months of age, they tend to flock to saltier things. However, instead of adding salt to foods and cooking, Reichert suggests parents cook or pan-roast vegetables in chicken broth.

“Infants are predisposed to reject few foods and new flavors, and are highly responsive to high energy, nutrient-dense foods,” she said. “So, the more flavorful and nutritious foods we give them when they’re young, when they’re older, they naturally go to those foods they have a flavor for. First foods should be sweet potatoes, bananas, or something similar and, Reichert said, and infants who have been offered a wide variety of foods tend to more readily accept wider varieties of food later. 

Parents, too

“Eating habits of parents are important, too,” she said. “If parents are sneaking around, hiding while eating chips and candy, kids are going to be curious about that. However, if they see us eating carrots and hummus, that’s what they’ll be drawn to. Our kids are always watching us.”

“As adult caregivers, we have to serve as the model for our children’s eating behaviors; we determine which foods are available; what portion sizes are offered; and the social context of meals,” Reichert said.

She suggested: try to gather as many as possible for all meals; make conversations happen and encourage everyone to eat more slowly.

“Also, if we make kids something other than what we are having for dinner, then we’re already telling them they won’t like what we’ve made,” she said. “We want our children to be healthy and fed. That’s our job, our role … it’s what we’re supposed to do.”

Gabriel Stephenson, a military spouse, mother of four children under age 19; and Belvoir resident, said she attended the workshop for weight-management and overeating issues.

“I enjoyed the workshop,” she said. “It offered good ideas, shopping tips and smoothie recipes.”