The theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month® is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”—focusing on how the little choices and changes you make every day add up in big ways for your health! In keeping with that theme, we’re sharing our Registered Dietitians’ top tips on small changes kids can make for a big impact on their whole-person health.
- Ask yourself: “Where did it grow/grow up?” A field? A farm? In the water? If you can’t tell, enjoy it in moderation. A processed cookie is less healthy than a banana that grew on a tree. Look at the ingredients –the fewer, the better.
- Ask yourself: “What’s in it for me?” Think of foods as fuel—each has a purpose in your body.
- Foods can help give you good health, energy, academic concentration, sports performance, clear skin, and strong hair. Educate yourself on the foods’ benefits and eat to get those benefits. Eating well can also decrease your likelihood of sickness or injury.
- Shift your eating habits in small ways by following the most up-to-date USDA Recommendations.
- Try to consume less: saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar;
- But get more: fiber, vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and iron.
- Eat your colors. One of the best ways to get a variety of nutrients is to eat fruits and veggies in an array of hues. Colors are nature’s way of telling you to eat up!
- Move every day. The CDC recommends an hour of aerobic exercise daily for kids—start slowly and aim for that goal. Don’t forget strength-training and weight-bearing exercise, too!
- Do what you like to do. It doesn’t have to be an organized sport—you can jump rope, hula hoop, dance in the house, play freeze tag, toss a Frisbee, or go for a hike. It’s all about enjoyment and variety.
- Get your zzzs. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-12 hours of sleep for kids, with less sleep as they age and develop. Nine hours is a good place to start for elementary through high school students—adjust depending on how you feel. Cranky? Sleep more. Groggy? Sleep a little less.
- Get away from your screen. According to a 2015 study by Harvard Medical School, light at night, especially the blue light in electronics, disrupts your natural circadian rhythm, and is correlated with higher rates of cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
- Laugh a little. A 2012 study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that laughter and humor activate specific reward-processing circuits of your brain—those that address incongruity resolution (when what’s expected differs from what occurs) and semantic processing (language comprehension). That means that laughter works a part of your brain you can’t get to otherwise. It’s like finding an exercise for a hard-to-isolate muscle!
- Read a funny book, listen to a podcast, or talk about your day with a close friend or family member—someone who can make you laugh and help you de-stress.
For more information on National Nutrition Month, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at eatright.org.