Eating right will help provide the nutrients needed to have energy, build strong bones, and fight diseases, and other conditions. Pay attention to what and how much your kids eat. A change in eating habits may be an early warning signal for other problems.

Snacks—Plan Them, Don’t Ban Them!

Unfortunately nearly one-fourth of kids’ daily energy intake comes from nibbling between meals. Much of this nibbling is on prepackaged snack foods, which are high in calories and low in nutrients. But snacking itself isn’t necessarily bad. Young children actually need snacks. Their stomachs are small, so they often can’t get all the nutrients they need in a day through meals alone.

It’s not always easy to persuade your kids to eat healthy snacks and their snacking habits aren’t going to change overnight, but here are a few snack-time tips:

  • Offer similar choices. Instead of ice cream or pretzels, offer your child frozen yogurt or soda crackers.
  • Provide variety. Be sure to select snacks from a variety of food groups so your kids won’t be bored with their snack choice.
  • Be creative. Dress up fruits and vegetables—offer celery with peanut butter, or carrots with a low-fat dip.

Food Allergies

According to the Food and Drug Administration, up to 6% of children in the U.S. under age 3 have food allergies. They are less common in adults but, overall, food allergies affect nearly 4 million people. Along with milk, eggs, wheat, soy, and shellfish, peanuts are among the most common foods that cause allergies. For some kids, food allergies can cause only minor discomfort, like a little tingling in the mouth. But for others they can be severe, causing difficulty breathing, for example. Try to work with your child’s school to find ways your child can be supervised to prevent contact with allergenic foods. Find out who would give your child treatment and discuss your child’s allergies with that person, making sure that they have any necessary medications and medical information.

Fruit Juice—Friend or Foe?

Although juice does contain some healthy nutrients, it’s high in calories and it may contribute to weight gain and tooth decay if consumed in excess. Some juice drinks, even those with 100% juice, have more calories than sugary carbonated beverages do. Juice also lacks the healthy fiber that whole fruit has. Tip: Try adding water or ice cubes to juice.

Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children drink no more than two 6-ounce servings of fruit juice a day.

Source: The Federal Citizen Information Center of the U.S. General Services Administration.