nmmc food column

Food: What’s enough, how much is too much?

A concern for many parents is their children’s eating routine or lack of one. I meet with all types of clients, but it is becoming more common to meet with children suffering with overweight problems or underweight caused by eating disorders. We live in a world filled with combo meals and convenience foods, and it’s difficult to achieve that balanced diet displayed in the Food Guide Pyramid.

March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s slogan is “Food & Fitness, Building Healthy Lifestyles.” During our lifetime, our bodies are in a constant state of building and manufacturing blood and tissues, but this year’s slogan really makes me think of starting with young children and influencing their food preferences and eating habits to promote a lifetime of good health. We face many obstacles along the way, like no time to prepare meals and picky eaters who will eat only two or three foods.

Coping with a finicky eater

Even the most well-balanced, nutritious, delicious meal won’t score any health benefits if your child refuses to eat it. Try swapping around foods from the same food group. For example, if he won’t eat anything green, try dark yellow or orange vegetables. Hates milk? Try to get calcium with cheese, yogurt or calcium fortified orange juice. Does he call bacon his favorite meat? Try peanut butter as a protein source or maybe chili with beans for a low fat, high fiber idea. Most of all, look at the big picture. Children’s appetites vary from day to day. As long as they’re growing at an appropriate rate, don’t worry too much over a poor appetite one day. He’ll make up for it over the course of a few days. Continue to offer a variety of nutritious snacks and encourage trying at least one bite of new foods.

Food for Fast Times

With all the various activities in which families are involved, it’s no wonder that fast foods are so popular and convenient for supper. However, it may take thinking to pick out some healthier choices. The “Healthy Start Food to Grow On” newsletter from the Food Marketing Institute suggests these tips to help get the most from foods that are fast:

1. Share – split an order of fries with other family members

2. Choose food groups from the Food Pyramid – ask to substitute low fat milk or juice for the soft drink in a combo meal

3. Balance high-fat choices with low-fat choices – order a small hamburger and the salad bar for your child. Kids like the fresh fruit, carrot sticks, raisins, etc.

4. Most fast food places offer lower fat choices: look for a salad bar and low-fat dressing, plain baked potatoes, chili, 1 percent milk, low-fat frozen yogurt and grilled chicken sandwiches.

5. Don’t forget supermarkets for a variety of nutritious fast foods – ready made deli sandwiches, fresh fruits and prepackaged salads.

Building a healthy lifestyle is a continuous process. Parents who set a good example of keeping on hand a variety of fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals, lean meats and low-fat dairy products and enjoying meals and snacks from these food groups help it become a way of life for their children.

Try these quick, nutritious recipes to help “Build Up Your Healthy Lifestyle.”

Orange Smoothie

2 cups skim or 1% milk

1 (6 ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate

1-2 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4-6 large ice cubes

In blender container, combine milk, orange juice concentrate, powdered sugar and vanilla. Cover and blend until smooth. With the blender running, add ice cubes, one at a time, through opening in the lid; blend until smooth and frothy. Pour into tall glasses; serve immediately. This can also be poured into plastic popsicle containers and frozen.

Easy Pizza

for breakfast or a snack

Hamburger bun or English muffin

Jar of spaghetti sauce

Grated mozzarella or cheddar cheese

Chopped ham, if desired

Spread a layer of spaghetti sauce on a hamburger bun half (or English muffin) and place on a cookie sheet or baking pan. Sprinkle with grated cheese and ham. Place under the broiler until cheese melts.

Asian Beef & Noodle Toss

from National Cattleman’s Beef Association

1 lb. ground chuck or ground round

2 packages (3 ounces each) Oriental flavor instant ramen noodles

2 cups water

2 cups frozen Oriental vegetable mixture

1-8 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion

1. In large nonstick skillet, brown beef over medium heat 8-10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, and crumbles. Pour off drippings. Season beef with one seasoning packet from noodles, set aside.

2. In same skillet, combine water, vegetables, noodles (broken into pieces), ginger and remaining seasoning packet. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover; simmer 3 minutes or until noodles are tender, stirring occasionally.

3. Return beef to skillet, heat thoroughly. Stir in green onion before serving.

Nancy Anderson, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with the Food and Nutrition Department at North Mississippi Health Services.