It’s finally March! Among the many celebrations, such as Women’s History Month and Read Across America, March is also about nutrition. As a parent of three children, I have always found getting my children to eat balanced, healthy meals a full-time job in and of itself. I have gone to incredible feats to hide vegetables in the food, cut fun shapes out of fruits, and attempted to convince my children that broccoli has superpowers.
Being conscious about the importance of nutrition, we at Buffalo Commons Charter School decided to reach out to Registered Dietitian, Kim Klee, to learn more about the importance of child nutrition and ask her a few questions. Kim is very passionate about childhood nutrition and loves inspiring little ones to cook and love food as much as she does! Kim doesn’t believe in fad-diets or making any food “off-limits,” but rather, she believes in an intuitive eating approach to food that allows all foods to fit in a healthy diet. Kim is a mother of two and lives in Buffalo with her children, husband, and dog. Thank you, Kim, for writing our guest blog to help us celebrate National Nutrition Month!
Why is childhood nutrition so important?
Childhood nutrition is essential because it lays the foundation for fostering a lifetime of healthy eating habits and creating a positive relationship with food. By teaching children that all foods fit (I love the “usually, sometimes, rarely” approach coined by Ellie Krieger. Notice there is no “never.”), they can become more attuned to the foods that make them feel good and energized vs. tired and sluggish.
How does nutrition affect a child's development?
For the most part, picky eating behaviors are outgrown with time. If a decent variety of foods are consumed, there isn’t a need to be concerned about nutritional deficiencies unless identified by a physician. This variety should be made up of a balance of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. With that being said, there are several sources of nutrition that directly affect a child’s development. For example, it is very important for young toddlers (age 1-2) to consume full-fat dairy products and/or non-dairy calcium sources rich in healthy fats for proper growth and brain development. It is also important to limit sugar-sweetened foods and beverages as much as possible for children, as it can negatively influence dental health and fill children up with empty calories that fill their bellies but don’t provide them with the proper nutrition they need.
How can we get kids involved and make nutrition fun?
I love this question because this is where my passion is! I’ve worked with small children for 5 years, encouraging healthy eating habits, and the one thing I’ve found to work is that you have to make it fun! Getting kids in the kitchen to help you makes them involved in the process and is much more likely to try the food you are serving. I do think it is a problem that not many young people know how to cook.
Knowing how to cook is such an essential skill for everyone to learn, and starting at a young age is a great way to foster it and empower little ones. It is important to remember that specific cooking tasks are appropriate for certain age groups. Younger children can help with tearing lettuce, washing fruits and vegetables, and cutting soft fruits like bananas with a child-safe knife. Older children can crack eggs, learn to use the stovetop safely, and read recipes. Some of my favorite tools are child-safe knives, fun cookie cutters, food picks, colorful bowls, plates, and placemats, etc. I also like the children’s learning towers to reach the counter safely, but any safe chair or high chair will work! In addition to allowing them to cook with you, I love rainbow sticker charts for encouraging children to try new foods. Have children draw and color a rainbow as an activity and hang the rainbow in your kitchen/dining area. When children try even a small bite of a new food, they can then place a dot sticker of the matching color on that section of the rainbow.
Any other tips or advice?
All I would add is that as a mom with picky children myself, it can be hard to see through all the hard work you do to prepare food and then watch them not eat it. Just remember that it is your job as the adult to decide what, where and when they eat. It is their job as the child to decide if they’re going to eat and how much. If we stay positive and respect the boundaries, all of our hard work will pay off, even if it takes MANY tries. Pat yourself on the back for providing great nutrition for your little ones; you’re doing a wonderful job!
And so are you, Kim!
As you can see, nutrition plays a vital role in both the health and development of children. At Buffalo Commons Charter School, we will provide the option of nutritious, balanced lunches through Buffalo Public Schools’ Food Services. The BCCS community values and supports the mission of the Buffalo Public School Services:
“We, as a team, are committed to the development of children by promoting nutritional goals with shared standards in a courteous, fun, and inviting atmosphere through respect and open lines of communication among all staff.”
Now we ask you, what have you done to make nutrition fun for your children? Or what are the go-to recipes that you would like to share?