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Helping Kids Eat Right

March 15, 2017

From the Spring 2017 issue of AtlanticView Kids:

It’s no secret that nutrition plays a key role in living a healthy lifestyle. However, Jane Harrington-Noonan, registered dietitian, says she has noticed a lack of balance in food choices in many of the children attending the Kid-Fit Program at Goryeb Children’s Hospital at Morristown Medical Center. “Many children are consuming foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients and are lacking in key food groups such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains,” she says.

To help families and kids better manage their diets, Harrington-Noonan offers several tips.

Use Technology

Embracing the phone app trend, Harrington- Noonan recommends the Fooducate app; it not only helps track food but, more importantly, rates the nutritional quality of foods. “This app helps families avoid the confusion of understanding a food label,” she says. “It gives foods an A, B or C based on the food quality. Should you select a product rated ‘C,’ the app actually gives you healthier choices in the exact same food group, thus ensuring healthier foods make their way into the family home.”

Plan Ahead

Try not to get stuck in a situation where your only choices are convenience foods that may be high in calories and low in nutrition. “Plan out your meals and snacks ahead of time. If you’re picking up kids from school, have a healthy snack in the car,” says Harrington-Noonan.

Pay Attention

Parents should encourage kids to be mindful of when they are hungry and aware of what they’re eating. “We tell parents to consider why their child is eating – ‘Is my child bored, stressed or actually hungry?’ – in addition to focusing on what their child is eating,” says Harrington-Noonan.

Follow the MyPlate Guidelines

MyPlate is a recommendation from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that includes a balanced mix of foods. Picture a dinner plate where one-quarter of the plate is vegetables, one-quarter is fruit, one-quarter is lean protein, and one-quarter is whole grains, with one cup of dairy on the side. “Choosing foods with fiber and proteins help fi ll you up,” says Harrington-Noonan. “These are nutrient-dense foods and not just empty calories.”

For more information, please contact the Goryeb Kid-Fit program at 973-971-8824.