Quinn on Nutrition: Encourage children to nibble on nutrient-rich foods

August 29, 2016

My granddaughter is four — "and next year I’ll be five!" — and soooo excited to start preschool this fall. She’s ready — "Frozen" backpack and all — for her first step into academia. What do mommy and daddy need to know about nutritious foods for Frances as she skips off to school? Here’s a short quiz:

SSB stands for a) sure she’s beautiful; b) sweet sugar babe; c) sugar sweetened beverage. Answer: c. Nutrition experts urge parents to take a close look at the amount of added sugars, especially in beverages, that they allow into their kids’ diets.

A child’s diet should a) be devoid of sugar at all costs; b) only contain beet or cane sugar; c) be low in added sugar — less than 10 percent of a child’s total daily calories. Answer: c. The limit on added sugar equates to about 35 grams of sugar (or about 140 calories from sugar) a day. For comparison, a 12-ounce soda contains about 45 grams of added sugar. One tablespoon of grape jelly has about 14 grams.

Of note: A recent study at the Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota found undesirable health effects with excess sugar consumption, no matter what the source. This study tested the effects of excess table sugar (sucrose) which is 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose, high fructose corn syrup (45 percent glucose and 55 percent fructose) and honey which is higher in fructose than glucose. That means parents need to keep a reasonable lid on all sweetened foods.

Young children need snacks because a) their tiny tummies don’t hold a lot of fuel at one time; b) it’s hard for them to sit still long enough to finish a big meal; c) food is a great distraction for long car rides. Answers: a, b. Kids should learn to eat when they are hungry, not when they are bored.

Expect a child to need a snack a) at exactly 10 a.m. every morning; b) whenever they get cranky; c) about 2 hours after a meal. Answer c) Have scheduled yet flexible snack times for kiddos, say experts for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Kids Eat Right initiative. Constant nibbling can ruin appetites for meals and set up a child for bad habits later on.

Smart grab-and-go single serve foods to keep on hand for lunches and snacks include: a) nuts and dried fruit; b) yogurt; c) baby carrots; d) all of these. Answer: d.

Ways to encourage a child to nibble on nutrient-rich foods include: a) Don’t let her have any of your junk food; b) Serve her fresh fruit and vegetables in kid size pieces; c) Keep a snack drawer of healthier items and let her choose one for herself. Answers: b and c. Focus on healthier alternatives instead of being overly restrictive, says child feeding expert Keith Williams from Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. And don’t eat junk foods in front of your child unless you allow her to have some, too.




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