Childhood obesity has become a common health concern for parents. It is estimated that one in every five children is overweight. A child is defined as obese when they are well above the normal weight for their age. One of the contributing factors in obesity is unhealthy eating habits. It is recommended that parents introduce healthy eating to children as early as possible. For some this may be easier said than done, because children are so easily attracted to the appeal of junk food.
What makes junk food enticing to children is sugar, high sodium, the taste of fat-commonly hydrogenated oils, in addition to bright, colorful packaging, fun shapes and unnatural food coloring. Parents can win the fight against junk food by making healthy food more appealing to children’s senses.
Here are a few tips on converting kid favorites into healthier choices:
- Hot dogs- instead of regular beef and pork hot dogs, purchase turkey franks with low sodium and without added nitrates. Decorate the hot dog with colorful vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots, red and yellow peppers.
- Salty cheese snacks- make plain cheese fun by cutting it into quirky shapes or adding bright and sweet fruit. You can make cheese and fruit shish kebabs.
- French fries- opt for baked sweet potato fries and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin C, B6, and D. They are a source of Iron, magnesium and potassium.
- Ice cream- frozen yogurt is just as tasty and contains less sugar and fat. Adding toppings such as fruit and granola is a plus.
- Popsicles- freeze real fruit juices with bits of fruit into bars.
- Potato chips- kale chips are rich in vitamin A and easy to make at home. Make them delicious by adding herbs and spices.
- Candy- healthy alternatives to candy include raisins or strawberries and bananas lightly drizzled with chocolate.
- Milk shakes- smoothies made with fresh fruit and low fat yogurt are a healthier option.
- Meat lasagna- load lasagna with vegetables instead of meat, choose low fat cheese and whole-grain pasta.
- Macaroni and cheese-use low fat cheese, add Greek yogurt to make it creamy and spinach to make it nutritious.
The battle against junk food is not lost. Keep food exciting and nutritious for your family by sourcing healthy recipe websites or visit Jamaica Hospital’s Facebook and Twitter pages for suggestions. In addition to healthy eating, keep your family physically active and also make an appointment with your family doctor to ensure that everyone is at their recommended weight.
The content in this newsletter is intended to be informational only. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page.