It seems not a day goes by when you read a headline about overweight children. It's so critical for them be educated about how to prepare a well-balanced meal and how to read the food labels to know what they are consuming. In less than an hour you can teach your child how to understand the nutrition label on the back of a food package. You might learn something in the process.
Here's how to get started:
Begin by having your child get three to four food items from your pantry such as a box of cereal, bottle of juice, a can of beans and a box of pasta.
Next, have them find the "Nutrition Facts" label on each product. You will discover that they all follow a pattern.
Begin at the top of the label. The first item is the serving size. This is often surprising because even adults think a small bag of chips is a single serving. You might realize it is actually 2 serving sizes and that's why you haven't lost the weight you gained over the holidays.
The next section on the label tells you how many calories per serving, and how many of those calories are from fat. Remember to emphasize that the number of calories is in a single serving of that product, not necessarily what's in the entire package.
The third section of the label will list the total fat and the recommended daily value. This section is particularly important because the higher the fat, cholesterol and sodium values you see, the worse the product is for you on a regular daily basis. I've told my children that they should keep their saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as low as possible as part of a healthy diet. Sodium should also be low; too much sodium can cause high blood pressure.
The next items on the label will include total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugars and proteins and then a list of vitamins, minerals and calcium. I have advised them that a high fiber number of 3 grams or more is good. Anything less than 3 grams most likely indicates that there are too many processed ingredients. Next, percentages that reflect high amounts of vitamins, calcium and iron are good so look for those when you shop.
It is important to note that the percentages are based 2,000 calorie a day diet. Most people don't know exactly how many calories they consume in a day, but the values listed are a point of reference to determine the nutritional value in a single serving of food.
Lastly, teach them how to read the list of ingredients. They are listed in descending order of weight (highest to lowest). In my household we avoid ingredients such as "high fructose corn syrup", "processed flour", "sugar", and "dextrose". If the first five have any processed ingredients, I have them look for a similar product with more natural and wholesome ingredients.
Learning how to read a "Nutrition Facts" label is the start to making healthy food choices not only for your children but what you serve them for dinner tonight.
What else do you do to teach your children about nutrition?
More from this writer:
When a Parent Moves in With You