My Plate Planner
"My Plate Planner” is an easy visual guide to help you serve meals to your children that will contain the right amount of the right, nutritious foods for maintaining a healthy body weight and good health. You can download a PDF of My Plate Planner in English or Spanish. Feel free to print it out and share it with your family and friends! Try keeping a print-out of My Plate Planner on your refrigerator, or somewhere handy in the kitchen, or wherever your family typically eats.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about children's eating habits.
Is my "chubby" kid too fat? What can I do?
The right weight for good health is based on age and height. Ask your child's doctor or nurse to calculate and explain your child's Body Mass Index or BMI percentile, which tells you whether your child’s weight is appropriate for his or her height. If it is not, keep in mind that kids who are overweight usually do not need to "lose" weight, with better habits they can "grow into" their weight.
- The best way to teach your child healthy habits is to encourage your whole family to adapt better habits. The vast majority of us need to eat better and move our muscles more for good health. Try not to "go negative." Make good health for you and your children a positive value, something that’s rewarding. Make some kind of activity part of daily family life: Walk up stairs, park far away or get off the bus one stop before your destination. Dance before dinner, play outdoors together or do an exercise tape or show. Get pedometers for everyone to count steps taken every day and record them on a family chart. Set individual activity goals (for kids and adults) and give stars or prizes for meeting them.
- Teach your child to eat the right amount. Use the right size plate and the right size portions. Fast food restaurants make money by selling us more food than we need; don’t use their portions as a guide. Hudson Health Plan has a sample plate with right size portions for children that you can download from the Hudson Health Plan website.
- And, beware of sweet drinks including sodas and juice—a 20-oz. bottle of Coca Cola has an incredible 16.5 teaspoons, or 240 calories, of pure sugar. Drink water and low fat milk at meals and make sweet drinks special, occasional treats.
- Cook at home: Maybe the most important thing a family can do is cook at home and eat together. Studies have shown this makes a difference in healthful weight. Cooking and eating together can be hard with today's busy life, but make it a priority, start with just one or two meals a week. Let a favorite healthful food or a new recipe be the inspiration. Let everyone do a job suitable to their age and skill level, but don't force kids to participate. The idea is to have fun together and build good habits. If it looks like fun, those who don't help the first time will want to help next time.
- Don't forget the vegetables! Every meal should have one or two vegetables or fresh fruit. Be a good role model: Make activity, cooking, right portions, fresh fruits and vegetables a priority for yourself. Do it for your children and enjoy better health yourself.
What can I do if my child hates vegetables?
Don't fight about it with your child. Use a triple strategy:
1. Make vegetables look and taste good-- try new presentations and new vegetables to showcase bright colors and varied textures, encourage kids to help with the recipes--no requirement to taste.
2. Make vegetables "normal" --include at least one hot or cold vegetable with every lunch and dinner. Put some vegetables on everyone's plate; eat your own with enjoyment but no comment. Don't bribe or punish. If the vegetables are not eaten, take them away when dinner is over. Kids go through phases and learn to eat new foods all the time. Eventually they will try and like the foods you serve and like yourself.
3. Be sneaky. Hide vegetables in other foods. Pureed vegetables can be added to soups, sauces, casseroles, pasta, even baked goods. Studies have shown that this works to get kids to eat fewer calories and more vegetables. Check out the book the Sneaky Chef for recipes. The Sneaky Chef website has several recipes for free.