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BLOG: Helping Kids and Families Make Healthy Changes in 2013

Author: Jessica Heimrich
Published: Friday, January 18, 2013

Kiddos have been on my mind lately, beginning with the heart wrenching tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, then during the holidays while visiting with family and a friend’s new baby girl, and finally returning to the SLU Dietetic Internship with a pediatric workshop. Children have been the topic of conversation across the board. Our pediatric workshop touched on many different aspects of pediatric nutrition, beginning with pre-conception and the mother’s nutritional status, through the first weeks of life, up to five-year-old toddlers.

Pediatric nutrition is currently a major priority among researchers, medical practitioners, and even The Biggest Loser. With the New Year rolling around and resolutions being made, personal lifestyle behaviors and choices are at the forefront of many of our thoughts and minds. As you create your healthy resolutions for 2013, you may consider making them together as a family. When discussing health goals as a family, children must be given guidance in setting their own targets. Family members can be partners and role models to young children in forming healthy food relationships and practices.

Saint Louis University Dietetic Interns helping kids

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (A.N.D.) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides many tips and guidelines to help families set goals and live healthier lives. For example, AAP promotes the evidence-based, age-appropriate Healthy Active Living for Families (HALF) Program to address early childhood obesity prevention. A.N.D. has an extensive amount of information for creating healthy eating practices for children and adults. The following links will guide you to many of the helpful hints provided below, and more: and Use the following tips to create your list of healthy family changes to be made in your children in the next year!

Begin the day with a SMART breakfast

  • A hearty breakfast improves behavior and school performance.
  • Protein helps keep children full until lunch time so they can focus and work hard at school and play. Include dairy, eggs, and whole grains.
  • Whole grains are a vital component to rejuvenate kids’ energy stores. They are also full of fiber and many other nutrients for healthy growth and development.

Instead of considering what you can remove from your usual choices, find things you want to add:

  • New fruits and vegetables such as winter squash, kale, and pomegranates are fun to try for kids and adults.
  • Different grains like quinoa, wheat berries and millet are nutritious and easy to substitute for rice and pasta.
  • Hummus, Greek yogurt, edamame, meatless Monday and more!

Invite children into the kitchen – make them chefs for the day

  • Allow kids to plan the menu. Work side by side as you prepare the meal together.
  • Sit down at the table once it is done and talk about what they learned.

Allow children to pack their own lunches

  • Buy foods you know your kids enjoy so they have plenty of options when choosing what they will have in their lunchbox.
    • Help them assemble a balanced healthy meal using the MyPlate model. Visit for more learning opportunities!
Saint Louis University Dietetic Interns helping kids

Increasing physical activity and avoiding sedentary behavior

  • A large aspect of AAP’s HALF Program Target Behaviors revolve around limiting screen time and increasing physical activity.
  • Limiting screen time to two hours or less is important for avoiding sedentary behavior. Limiting eating in front of screens is also a critical behavior to learn.
  • Encourage children to get 30 to 60 minutes for most days of the week.

Encourage choosing healthy beverages

  • Water and non-flavored milk are the best choices. AAP recommends whole milk or 2% milk for 1 to 2 year-olds and low-fat milk after two years old.
  • Limit juice to 4 – 6 ounces per serving.
  • Considering delaying the introduction of juice until 12 months.

Eat the rainbow

  • Strive to vary your family’s fruit and vegetable intake by choosing produce items of different colors.
  • Challenge each member of the family to pick a new produce item they have not tried before.

Prepare it during the week for the whole family.

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