First 5 San Diego is committed to improving childhood nutrition and healthy eating is one way to ensure a healthy child. March is National Nutrition Month, which focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This year’s theme, ‘Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,’ encourages healthy eating while still enjoying the flavors, social experiences, and traditions surrounding food.
Our Healthy Start campaign promotes the role that parents, caregivers, and early learning educators have in providing healthy food choices to children at an early age. For example, along with encouraging lower calorie drinks such as low fat milk and water, during mealtime a plate should:
- Be half fruits and vegetables
- Make at least half the grains whole
- Include dairy
- Have portion control
MyPlate, developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is one tool a parent can use to follow healthy eating guidelines. It has broken down the mealtime plate into five portion-controlled food groups: fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy. Not only does MyPlate give a visual on how much of each food group we should all be eating, but the USDA Choose My Plate program encourages flexible and healthy eating that fits your lifestyle.
First 5 San Diego partners with a number of community organizations to encourage the development of healthy habits and good nutrition in children. One such organization is the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative, a public/private partnership whose mission is to reduce and prevent childhood obesity in San Diego County by creating healthy environments for all children and families through advocacy, education, policy development, and environmental change. The Initiative’s 5210 Every Day! Campaign focuses on four healthy habits parents and caregivers can easily adopt at home and into your family’s lifestyle: eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables; 2 hours or less of recreational screen time; 1 or more hour of physical activity; and 0 sugary drinks, plus more water and low fat milk.
Another way to improve the nutrition of your child is to engage them in the meal preparation process. Talk with your kids while cooking to increase their awareness and involvement. You can include information on the variety of colors, shapes, textures, and tastes the different ingredients have. By engaging your children during mealtime preparation you’re building memories that will encourage them to savor the flavors- and that goes beyond what’s on their plate. Use March to introduce a healthy variety of foods to your family’s meals and enjoy the benefits all year long!