There are three ways to use the new PKR:

  1. Browse and click on color-coded boxes that appear as if by magic as you scroll down.
  2. Click on a category for all the ParenTips under that particular category.
  3. Go to the Site Map (link) for an:
    • a) alphabetical list of all ParenTips.
    • b) A list of all 8 categories with every ParenTip in that category listed alphabetically.

Or mix and match! Have fun as you get the information you need!

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Now let’s look at the practical aspects of nutrition.

Your main job as a parent is to help your child make wise food choices, now and later when you’re not around. The operative words are variety, balance, and moderation.

Do not forbid any foods. There are no bad foods; there are only bad eating habits. Even candy and fries are OK in small amounts once in a while. Rather than forbid a food teach the child to eat less of it or eat it less often. Serve pancakes one day a week; cereal or toast the rest of the days.

Don’t badmouth any foods. Don’t say pancakes are bad for you because they have eggs and oil. Instead say oatmeal is good for you because it has lots of complex carbohydrates, the things athletes eat to help themselves perform well on the playing field. Be positive about food!

Offer your child a wide variety of foods and help your child choose well. Encourage your child to taste new foods but never make an issue out of it. Some kids are not adventurous eaters. Offer the new food to the child every time you serve it, however, as it may take dozens of “viewings” before a child decides it’s safe to taste.

Have healthy snack foods on hand for the child to choose from like pretzels and fresh fruits instead of chips and candy.

Do not get bent out of shape trying to feed everybody in the family a different food at meals. Parents are not short-order cooks. Do not get in the habit of preparing something different if Sally hates tuna casserole. Use the same rule I used in my house: eat what’s on the table or help yourself to some cereal and milk.

Cut down the fat you serve your family by learning to shop and cook the “new way.” Remember the plate of food you were served as a teenager with a big slab of meat surrounded by a few tablespoons of potatoes and vegetables? We don’t eat that way anymore. The amount of meat or chicken any of us needs per serving is roughly the size of the palm of our hand (about three ounces for an adult). Increase the serving sizes of potatoes, rice, grains, and vegetables.

Shop the “new way.” Learn how to read labels so you can avoid processed foods with high fat or sodium content. Choose fish or poultry or buy lean cuts of beef, Choose mono or polyunsaturated oils, and reduced-fat margarine. Select nonfat frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. Buy rice, barley, pasta and wheat products like kasha and couscous as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Show your children which foods you chose and why.

Learn to cook “heart-healthy”. Use less fat in food preparation, trim fat and skin from meat and poultry, drain or skim off all the fat you can after cooking, don’t fry foods, avoid rich sauces and thick salad dressings, use less cheese.

If parents wish to eat less fat than the children, they should eat more complex carbohydrates and vegetables at the meal and less meat. One mother I know makes a big batch of marinara sauce which she divides, putting browned meat in the sauce for the children and eating the plain sauce herself. But you can accomplish the same goal of fat reduction with less trouble by eating less of the meat sauce and a big bowl of salad.

Keep mealtimes pleasant and have as many family meals together as possible. The family meal is important — and it provides lots more than food. It provides a time for the family to get together, to connect, to talk to each other, to find out what’s happening to everybody. Mealtime is not the time to air grievances or discuss the child’s failings.

Turn off the TV, radio, stereo or any other noisy distraction before sitting down to eat.

There is no need to avoid your friendly fast-food establishment. It would be cruel to deprive a child of its own culture! When you’re there, order broiled chicken or a small burger, split an order of fries, drink 2% milk or juice instead of milk shakes. And go less often. Just as there are no forbidden foods, there need be no forbidden restaurants.

If both parents work, use ingenuity in picking restaurants and choosing take-out food to maximize good nutrition. Spaghetti has less fat than pizza, a burrito has less fat than a chimichanga. Chinese food (minus egg rolls) is usually OK. Order extra portions of rice or pasta and split a dinner order between two people. Teach your children how to make wise food choices when ordering at restaurants or getting take-out.

Don’t waste your time trying to calculate the percent of fat in your child’s diet — or your own — unless your doctor has told you that there is a cholesterol problem.

If you wish to prevent obesity in your child — or yourself — increase everybody’s exercise time. Make a family run or hike part of your routine. This not only provides your child with some healthy time outdoors but also shows your child that grown-ups enjoy exercise.

Do not allow your child unlimited access to junk food. You may have read about the experiment in which young children allowed free access to a variety of foods “balanced” their own diet over time. But these children had only wholesome foods to choose from. And they lived in the pre-TV era which meant they were not “seduced” by the media to want certain less-than-wholesome foods. No responsible parent would let their child have unlimited access to candy.

When it comes to food and mealtimes, keep it simple, keep it relaxed, keep it enjoyable. Your main job as “family nutritionist” is not only to provide wholesome food but also teach your child how to:

1) make wholesome food choices,
2) enjoy food, and
3) enjoy family meals.