This is National Nutrition Month. In the past I have been rather vocal about the importance of nutrition both here and over at Babble. Brooke Alpert is a nationally recognized nutrition expert and author. She is the founder of B Nutritious, and works with a variety of clients to meet nutritional goals that fit within their lifestyle.
In honor of National Nutrition Month, Brooke has offered to share some of her tips for helping to raise healthy kids.
What is a good way to get kids on board with changes that will improve their eating habits?
Kids learn best when it’s a hands-on experience. Get them in the kitchen with you and as you work with each ingredient let them know in a language they can understand why each one is so good for them. It’s important to be patient—a child isn’t going to necessarily be on board right away but it will happen over time.
Do you think that children should be taking a probiotic? What about muti-vitamins?
Nothing beats getting all the nutrients kids need from real food. That said, it’s hard to get enough vitamin D during the winter months, for example, so vitamins are a nice safety net.
All children should be taking a probiotic, as it’s really difficult to get adequate amounts through food—and it’s especially difficult to ensure your kids are getting the right probiotic strains that are proven to help keep their digestive systems healthy. I personally recommend Culturelle Kids Probiotics to my clients because it contains 100% Lactobacillus GG which is proven to help boost immunity—what mom wouldn’t want that?
Some girlfriends and I get frustrated at all of the post athletic game snacks. What would you say to parents who ask whether kids can have an extra junk food snack or sugary drink on days that they have been very physically active?
Just because a child has been physically active doesn’t mean it’s a free for all day when it comes to eating. Treats should be considered treats and saved for special occasions. Healthy eating should be the norm for all children.
Think about it too from an adult’s perspective—does going to the gym give you a free eating pass for burgers, sodas and fries? Nope—after a hard workout you need to rehydrate and replenish but not overindulge. Same for the kids!
Do you have any tips or tricks for kids who do not like to drink water?
Water doesn’t have to be boring—get your kids in the kitchen and let them experiment with ways to flavor their water naturally. Take a few mason jars and have them add strawberries, oranges, mint, even apple slices to each one for naturally light flavors and see what they like best. You can even let them help you make flavored ice cubes spiked with a little bit of 100% juice and a berry frozen in it to make their water even more interesting!
As a child I was envious of the kids who got to pack their own lunches and buy junk food from the cafeteria. Now I am a mom who I tries hard to pack healthy lunches for my kids at school, but they too see kids buy junk food from the cafeteria or make themselves marshmallow fluff sandwiches. What is your suggestion for striking a balance?
An open dialogue with your kids is the best way to go. Let them know that what you put in their lunch box is what’s healthiest for them. Have them help you pack their lunch in the morning and use their suggestions. When they ask for something unhealthy like a marshmallow fluff sandwich (yuck by the way) explain that food like that won’t help them grow or focus or have enough energy to play. It is important to not put something on a pedestal though—if it’s a food they are really curious about, perhaps find a healthier version of it so they can at least try it and know that it’s a treat type of food. Using the marshmallow sandwich for example is a great opportunity to explain that your child won’t have enough energy throughout the day if he/she eats that, but perhaps this coming up weekend you can make s’mores together as a special treat. Now that sounds yummy!
Here are Brooke’s 8 nutrition tips for moms to keep kids healthy:
1. Take a daily probiotic, like Culturelle Kids Probiotic Chewables, it strengthens their immune system and keeps a healthy digestive tract!
2. Get them in the kitchen! A child who helps prepare the food is more likely to try the food!
3. Always have water available for kids. Hydration is key to health—especially for kids because they aren’t always so in touch with their thirst!
4. Mindless snacking isn’t good for anyone—kids or adults! If you want your kids to eat during meal times, you can’t be constantly handing them snacks all day long.
5. Dessert should be a treat, not a reward. Stickers and other little gadgets are a much better option than ice cream!
6. Don’t encourage your child to finish everything on her plate. Instead encourage her to listen to her body and eat if she is hungry.
7. Make fruit and veggies appealing. Get cute little dishes and have cut up veggies on the table while you’re preparing meals. Best appetizer ever!
8. Don’t give up if your child rejects a new food. Keep offering it—they will come around eventually!
What are YOUR best tips for raising healthy kids?
More about Brook Alpert:
While focusing on meeting the demands of a busy schedule, Brooke teaches clients how to eat without feeling deprived. An individualized and tailored approach is taken with each client to create a customized eating lifestyle.
Brooke received her Master of Science at New York University and completed her training at Mt. Sinai Hospital in affiliation with NYU. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Greater New York Dietetic Association, Weight Management Group, Women’s Health Group, Integrative and Function Medicine Group as well as the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition Group.
Her second book, The Sugar Detox: Lose Weight, Feel Great and Look Years Younger (Da Capo) came out in June 2013 and has been sold internationally. Her first book, Healthy Eating During Pregnancy (Kyle Books) was out in 2011.
Brooke is a former equestrian and tri-athlete. She resides in New York City with her husband and their daughter.