National Nutrition Month — March — is almost over, but with weight struggles and obesity reaching epidemic levels in Georgia and nationally, it’s not too late to start children on healthy eating habits to last year round, according to the Georgia Association of School Nurses.
Making healthy eating choices and maintaining a healthy weight reduces a child’s chance of developing many chronic conditions both now and later in life, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, cancer, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, gout, breathing problems and asthma.
“Even if your child is not overweight now, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity can add up to problems later, but a strong foundation to make smart, healthy choices begun at a young age can last a lifetime,” said GASN President Carol Darsey, who also is the Liberty County School System’s lead nurse.
Here are 10 healthy habits that are easy, and — with the right, fun food choices — children will find them delicious, too:
• Fill half your child’s plate with fruit and vegetables.
• Don’t keep sugar-sweetened beverages at home, or limit to special treats.
• Serve breakfast every day. Skipping breakfast is one of the top risk factors for type 2 diabetes. (For extra protection against diabetes, serve a bowl of high-fiber cereal with a banana or raisins.)
• Limit your child’s meals outside the home and fast food to no more than once a week.
• Sit down as a family and eat together without distractions.
• Take your children grocery-shopping with you and involve them in food preparation.
• Pack lunchboxes and brown bags with sandwiches that contain turkey and other healthy cold cuts, instead of processed meats, such as bologna.
• Ensure your child gets one hour or more of daily physical activity, and don’t let him/her spend more than one hour a day sitting in front of a television or computer screen.
• Plant a vegetable garden together.
• Most important of all: Guide your child gently toward healthy food choices, rather than dictating. Make healthy snack foods available in your home and look for healthy choices that children like.
For more information on the roles that school nurses play in nutrition education, planning special meals for children with health conditions and caring for children with diabetes and other chronic diseases, go to www.gasn.org.