As I think about what Kids Eat Right means to me, I think of what I tell not only my patients but my own children. I should practice what I preach, right? As a mom, I know that little ones are attracted by yummy treats which they are exposed to in many different ways. As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I know that children should enjoy these treats as well. The questions are, how much and how often? The answer is always moderation! To get children to understand moderation, I love using tools that are attractive, colorful and engaging.
My daughters are proof that I am one the biggest fans of “MyPlate”. They always say, “Mami, look, it’s YOUR plate!”. I enjoy using props. They are my back-up, my reinforcement. It is that secret weapon that makes the information real and tangible. You may have seen the different categories that MyPlate uses: fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.
While My Plate teaches us about balance and is definitely very user friendly for all ages, it doesn’t always help us identify those “fun” foods we can enjoy on occasion. For that purpose, I like to use the: Go, SLOW, WHOA idea! This information and amazing materials are part of We Can! We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity & Nutrition) is a national movement designed to give parents, caregivers, and entire communities a way to help children 8 to 13 years old stay at a healthy weight (Just as an FYI – I use it for kids way younger than that!). This movement is a collaboration between the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Cancer Institute.
The idea is simple, fun and it works! When teaching kids about GO, SLOW, WHOA; I make them think of a stop light. What are the 3 colors? What do they mean? How does that translate into what we eat? They love to answer and they get it! Making it fun and interactive keeps their attention and interest. Here are the basics of it.
GO is green and means you can eat those foods anytime! These are foods that are the lowest in fat and sugar, they are low in calories.
SLOW is yellow and means you can eat those food sometimes (less often). These foods are higher in fat, added sugar, and calories.
WHOA is red and means you can eat those foods every once in a while and in small portions. These are the foods highest in fat and added sugar and therefore high in calories. I do try to emphasize that these foods are not forbidden. Just like the stoplight, when it’s red we should stop…stop and think how many WHOA foods have I had today or this week or weekend.
Examples of how foods get categorized in these sections can be seen here:
Teaching our kids to make their own healthy eating choices allows them to understand why we may say no to extra treats at times or why we encourage more fruits and vegetables in between meals. It is important that we educate them from early on about the importance of nourishing our bodies to be able to grow, learn and be healthy. As parents and/or caregivers, we can empower our children to have a healthy future!
Kate (one of our nutrition summer interns) and I at a school function teaching elementary children about healthy snacks using GO, SLOW, WHOA.
Happy Kids Eat Right month all children out there!