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Children's Health

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Keys to a Healthy Diet

The keys to healthy eating are variety, balance and moderation. Be sure your family eats a variety of foods, including plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grain products. Also include low-fat and nonfat dairy products, lean meats, poultry, fish and legumes (lentils and beans). Drink water to quench your thirst, and go easy on the salt, sugar and saturated fat.

Good nutrition should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle that also includes regular physical activity. To maintain weight, both kids and adults must balance the calories they eat with the calories they burn through physical activity. If you eat more calories than you use up in physical activity, you gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than you use up, you lose weight. Make a commitment to helping your family eat sensibly and move more often.

Here are some tips for healthy eating to help you get started.

  • Try to keep track of your children's meal/snack and physical activity patterns so you can help them balance the amount and types of food they eat with the amount of physical activity they perform.

  • Encourage your family to eat at least 5 servings of brightly colored vegetables and fruits a day. You can start the day with 100% fruit or vegetable juice. Slice fruit on top of cereal. Serve salad with lunch and an apple as an afternoon snack. Include vegetables with dinner.

  • Leave the candy, soft drinks, chips and cookies at the store. Substitute them with fruits, vegetables, nuts, and low-fat or nonfat milk products. Your child will soon learn to make smart food choices outside your home as well.

  • Serve children child-sized portions, and let your child ask for more if still hungry. Don't force children to clean their plates. Try measuring food items to learn to estimate the amount of food on a plate.

  • Choose a variety of foods. No single food or food group supplies all the nutrients in the amounts that you need for good health. If you plan for pizza one night, balance your meal with salad, low-fat or nonfat milk and fruit.

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