Spring is the time for new beginnings, which can also include your family’s nutritional health! March is National Nutrition Month and, to celebrate, I am encouraging families to try four new healthy habits in their mealtime routine.
Education (Healthy Habit 1): Check out the nutritional sites eatright.org and choosemyplate.gov to quickly educate yourself on the correct serving sizes for your child’s age. In feeding therapy, the parents I work with learn quite a bit when we look at serving sizes together. Their response is almost always, “Wow, I’m actually doing a good job!” or “I’m not that far off in the vegetable category, I only need him to eat ONE more tablespoon a day. That’s totally doable.” You can include your toddler in this educational exercise and invite them to help you in the kitchen!
Portions (Healthy Habit 2): Team ezpz makes portion sizing easy for parents in our book Making Mealtime ezpz. Use the book as a reference for daily serving sizes, feeding tips, recipes and how to make meals served in the Happy Mat that much more fun! In addition, parents can use the top compartments (i.e., the eyes) of the Happy Mat as a reminder to serve a fresh serving of a fruit and a vegetable at every meal. You will no longer have to wonder if they got their recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies; the Happy Mat makes starting this healthy routine ezpz!
Colors (Healthy Habit 3): Studies show that kids need to eat a minimum of 5 colors of fruits and vegetables every day. The best way to set this healthy routine is to make eating red, orange, yellow, green and blue fun for the whole family! To do this, I recommend trying my color taste challenge game. All you need to do is make a snack or a meal that is all the same color. Then, challenge each other to try all things green…or blue! Remember, this is fun, so we want to encourage trying new foods and colors and not shame anyone during the game. Your kids might fall in love with a new fruit or veggie with this entertaining method, especially if mom and dad play too.
Skills (Healthy Habit 4): Biting and chewing are oral motor skills that may be challenging for some children to learn without practice and patience. As a Feeding Specialist, I’ve worked with a lot of kiddos who were stuck eating the same foods (e.g., chicken nuggets and yogurt), not just because they LOVE the taste of that food, but also because they haven’t perfected the ability of biting and chewing. Parents can model these important eating skills by animatedly biting into veggies and over exaggerating a rotary chewing pattern. It is important to make chewing practice a positive experience filled with amusement and laughter! Want Junior to chew and eat celery? Show him how it’s done! Once they learn how to properly chew, you may be surprised that your kiddo is no longer a picky vegetable eater.
I hope you find these new habits easy to incorporate into your family mealtime! What other healthy routines are you starting this spring? #ezpzfun #NationalNutritionMonth #spring
Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz