Starting healthy habits for life: 2-5 years

Dinner with preschoolersPreschool is an exciting time when kids are curious and love to try new things. This is the perfect time to start your child eating a variety of nutritious foods. Variety will help them get the nutrients they need and provide a source of pleasure as they discover new tastes and textures.

Tips and Basics

  • You are in control of the food and drinks that are offered. Your child is in control of whether or not she eats them and how much.
  • Offer the right portion sizes. Depending on your child’s age and appetite, this might be a full Food Guide serving or only half. Start with a small amount and give seconds if he wants. Serving too much at once can make a child feel like not eating at all.
  • Every day is different. Remember that appetites can change from day to day or meal to meal. Children should never be forced to eat or to stop eating. Accept that your child will eat as much as she feels she needs.
  • Eat together. Children tends to copy what adults do. Serve food at the table and get rid of distractions. Turn off the TV/tablet/computer/Smartphone and don’t allow toys or books at the table. Enjoy your time together.
  • Have regular meal and snack times. This should usually be 3 meals and 2-3 snacks each day. Don’t serve snacks within an hour of a meal. Other than water, try not to offer foods or beverages outside of these times. Extra snacks can lead to tooth decay and interfere with the development of healthy eating habits.
  • Make eating easy. Cut food into small bits. Cook meat until it is softer. Be creative and colourful. Accept that messes are a part of learning to eat.
  • Offer a variety of foods at each meal. Always include some foods that your child has eaten before. Don’t draw attention to the new food. Just serve it and let your child decide if he wants to try it.
  • Don’t force them. If your child refuses a food, DO NOT try to make him eat it. Coaxing, forcing, bribing, punishing or playing food games may create problems and cause stress.
  • Don’t prepare something different for your child if she refuses all or part of the family meal. If you do, she will quickly learn that she can ask for something different, and she will be less likely to eat the foods you have already prepared. If you allow your child to pick and choose from the variety of foods you have prepared for the family, eventually she will learn to try new foods.
  • Be patient. You may need to offer a new food 20 times – yes, that much or more before your child tries it. And he may taste it many times before he decides to eat it. Let your child learn to enjoy foods at his own pace.

For more information, there is a great resource for parents and caregivers you can download from Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Health called You, Your Child, and Food – Healthy Eating for Preschool Children: Age 2-5 Years.

If you have specific questions, check in with with your health care provider.

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Top 5 reasons for breastfeeding

Top 5 Reasons to BreastfeedBreast milk is all your baby needs for the first six months of life. Plenty of benefits come along with breastfeeding your baby.

Check out the top 5 reasons for breastfeeding your newborn:

  1. Nutrients and Protection – Breast milk is custom-made by each mother for her own baby, and contains the perfect amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals. Remarkably, as your baby grows, your milk will also change to keep up with your baby’s needs. Breast milk contains valuable antibodies that help prevent disease and may reduce the risk of your baby developing allergies. After birth, your first milk, called colostrum, offers vital early protection and helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria by coating your baby’s digestive system. This early protection is even more important if your baby is born prematurely – colostrum protects!
  2. Brain Power – There is strong evidence that children who were breastfed score higher on IQ tests, as well as on teacher ratings of their academic performance.
  3. Convenient and Portable – Breast milk is always safe, fresh and exactly the right temperature. It’s ready for baby at a moment’s notice, and you don’t have to heat it, boil water, or sterilize bottles – no mess no stress. This makes night time feedings a lot easier. Since breast milk is always with you, traveling and shopping with your baby is simpler, with no equipment to carry or refrigeration needed.
  4. Benefits Mothers Too – Research suggests that breastfeeding provides a measure of protection against breast cancer, ovarian cancer and weak bones later in life. Your body uses calories to produce milk, so breastfeeding can help you to gradually lose weight gained during pregnancy.
  5. Continues the Special Relationship – The closeness and comfort of breastfeeding strengthens the bond with your baby, as one part of all the things you can do to build a secure, loving relationship. Dads and moms can’t spoil a baby, so give your baby all the cuddling she or he wants.

YouWon'tRegretItCheck out this newly released breast feeding promotion video, called You Won’t Regret It, produced here in Newfoundland and Labrador. This celebrity-packed exploration of the choice of breastfeeding is a must-see for its entertainment value alone. (And it even features Krystin Pellerin and Andy Jones, two of the Very Special Guests appearing at our upcoming Kids Eat Smart Foundation Gala – Alice in Newfoundland!)

You can also find more information on breastfeeding from the Baby-Friendly Council of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Information for this post was also sourced from 10 Great Reasons to Breastfeed your Baby by Public Health Agency of Canada in partnership with the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada.

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Eating Healthy for Mom and Baby

Recommended Servings during pregnancyWith so much information available on pregnancy, it can become difficult for women to know how to best take care of their health.

Often in my personal life I get many questions from expecting mothers on What should I eat? What should I avoid? How can I improve my overall health during pregnancy?

Usually my first answer is that a healthy balanced diet for mom and baby is key; before, during, and after pregnancy! Pregnancy usually brings more awareness of healthy eating to moms which is nice to see as a dietitian.

Eating well during pregnancy will ensure that your baby gets all of the vitamins and minerals required in the early weeks of development. Eating well after pregnancy also ensures baby is getting key nutrients while mothers are breastfeeding.

Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide helps you choose the foods that will give you the nutrition you need in preparation for pregnancy. All women 19-50 years of age should aim every day to eat a variety of foods from each of the four food groups:

  • Vegetables and Fruit: 7-8 recommended servings of a variety of vegetables and fruit
  • Grain Products: 6-7 recommended servings emphasizing on whole grains more often
  • Milk and Alternatives: 2 recommended servings of lower fat milk, cheese, yogurt or enriched soy beverages
  • Meat and Alternatives: 2 recommended servings of poultry, fish, lean meat, dried peas, beans, lentils, eggs or tofu.

It only makes sense that pregnant and breastfeeding women need more calories. For most women, this means only an extra two or three Food Guide Servings from any of the food groups each day in addition to their recommended number of Food Guide Servings per day as above.

For more information check out this neat resource  to make sure you’re getting the required servings a day – the My Food Guide Servings Tracker for pregnancy is handy to post on your fridge.

(Don’t forget to use Canada’s Food Guide to help you determine how much food is in “one serving”!)

Important nutrients for you and your baby

Folic Acid
Folic acid, also known as folate, is a vitamin needed both before you conceive and during pregnancy. This vitamin helps reduce the baby’s risk of developing a type of birth defect, called neural tube defect, which affects the brain and spinal cord. Cooked asparagus, cooked spinach, romaine lettuce, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, orange juice and sunflower seeds are some excellent sources of folic acid.

Since it is difficult to get enough folic acid from food alone, women of childbearing age should take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains 0.4 mg (or 400 μg) of folic acid before becoming pregnant and in the early weeks of pregnancy. Make sure the supplement contains no more than 1 mg (or 1000 μg) of folic acid unless your physician recommends otherwise. Talk to your health care professional about taking a multivitamin supplement before you become pregnant.

During pregnancy, your requirement for iron increases from 18 mg to 27 mg per day. This extra iron will be used to make red blood cells that carry oxygen through your own body and to your growing baby. Feeling tired may be the first sign that you are low in iron. Start to build up your iron stores now by eating more whole grain and iron-enriched breakfast cereals, lean meats, dried peas and beans, dark green vegetables, dried fruits and nuts. Talk to your health care professional about your iron levels during pregnancy.

Calcium helps keep your bones and teeth strong. Get used to eating lots of calcium-rich foods now. Milk and fortified soy beverages are excellent sources of calcium and they also contain vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. If you have a milk allergy, talk to your health care provider about calcium supplements. Other calcium-containing foods to include in your diet are: yogurt, cheese, orange juice with calcium, tofu set with calcium sulphate, almonds, canned sardines or salmon with bones, legumes and leafy green vegetables.

Caffeine crosses into the baby’s blood when you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Take a look at your caffeine intake and keep it to less than 300 mg a day. Instead of caffeinated beverages, drink water, milk, soup and fruit and vegetable juices before and during your pregnancy.

To stay within the recommended limit, a pregnant woman could drink a little more than two 8-oz cups of coffee a day, as long as she did not take any other products that have caffeine in them. It is important to realize, however, that many coffee mugs are larger than 8 oz. Also, takeout coffees can be as large as 16 oz (474 ml) or 20 oz (592 ml). Just one 20-oz coffee would contain more caffeine than the daily limit suggested for pregnant women.

For a breakdown of the approximate caffeine content of certain drinks and foods, click here. For more information, about caffeine and your health, visit Health Canada’s page Caffeine and Your Health.

For more information, check out Health Canada’s terrific resource The Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy – you can view it online, download a copy or order a free copy by mail.

The Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

Information for this post was also sourced from the Dietitians of Canada’s pregnancy section of their website.

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Best Food Forward: Plan Shop Cook Enjoy!

Kids Eat Smart celebrates Nutrition MonthWelcome to March! It’s Nutrition Month, brought to you by the Dietitians of Canada, of which I am proud to be a member.

Did you know that:

  • Two thirds (63 per cent) of Canadians struggle with making healthier food choices in the grocery store at least half the time they shop
  • While many Canadians write grocery lists (67 per cent), fewer plan meals (37 per cent)
  • Half (52 per cent) of Canadians always or very often read the nutrition label on a food before purchasing

This kind of information, (gathered from a 2012 Ipsos Reid Poll commissioned by Dietitians of Canada,) led to this year’s slogan – Best Food Forward: Plan Shop Cook Enjoy!

The key take-away is that healthy eating begins in the grocery store, so throughout the month, I’ll try and share practical advice to help make shopping for healthy food for you and your family a little easier.

Most of us purchase much of the food our family consumes from the grocery store. Busy lives and limited budgets sometimes mean our carts are not always filled with the best choices.

Research and common sense tells us that what is easily accessible is more frequently eaten. This is especially true with large quantities and packages of food such as snack food that requires little preparation.

Having healthier choices that are available, accessible and visible (e.g. fruit on the counter) can potentially increase the uptake and intake for everyone in the home.

I’ll kick us off today with a tip that I’ve talked about before – PLAN AHEAD.

Try to take these four steps BEFORE you head to the grocery store:

  1. THINK about what meals you’ll be making
  2. SCAN the flyers for specials
  3. CHECK your kitchen’s inventory
  4. MAKE a list

For more tips and tools on planning your trip to the grocery store, check out one of my previous blog posts Tackling the trip to the grocery store.

At Kids Eat Smart Foundation, we believe that Good Eating = Good Thinking, but you can also flip it around when heading to the grocery store – good thinking can help equal good eating too!

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Welcome to the new Kids Eat Smart Family Nutrition Blog!

Kristin of Kids Eat Smart

Hi, I`m Kristin with Kids Eat Smart

Hi! I’m Kristin Harris and I am a registered dietitian with the Kids Eat Smart Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I am passionate about healthy eating and living and take pride in supporting access to adequate nutritious food.

I do this by providing advice regarding food, diet and nutrition for the over 200 Kids Eat Smart clubs being run in schools across the province. We help provide access to adequate nutritious food for over 20,000 school children in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Our vision is that every school aged child in Newfoundland and Labrador attends school well nourished to be ready to learn. In a nutshell, we believe that good eating = good thinking!

Of course healthy eating is something that goes far beyond the school day, so we’ve decided start this Family Nutrition Blog to share recipes, tips, menu planning, news and advice for families in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I look forward to receiving your comments and suggestions as we move forward.