Making healthy choices for your family’s meals can be hard, but with a few essential building blocks of nutrition, we can make it easier! Sanford fit uses the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a source of reliable information on nutrition and healthy eating for families. We also gamify food choices by using a stoplight model with kids. With so many options for food and drinks, it’s important to stop and think about what foods and drinks do for your body and brain. Let’s talk about it!
What does it mean to make nutritious food choices? The first step to understanding the impact of nutrition is to understand what a nutritious choice consists of. At fit, we use something called the Stoplight Model to understand the different nutritious choices you have:
- Green-light foods have the highest levels of nutrition and give your body and brain the most fuel. Examples of green-light foods include whole fruits and vegetables, whole grain pastas and breads, lean meats, milk, and water.
- Yellow-light foods have some nutrition, but not as much as green-light foods do. Examples of yellow-light foods include dried fruit, flavored yogurt, 100% fruit juice, granola bars, and veggies with sauce.
- Red-light foods have the lowest nutritional value for your brain and body. Foods in the red-light category include chips, candy, fried food, cake, donuts, and soda.
Keep in mind, there are no good or bad food choices, but there are options that have more nutrition than others. Food is your body’s fuel and fueling up with nutritious foods will make your body and brain feel amazing! Try to have a balance of complex carbohydrates, fats, and protein in your diet.
What do nutritious food choices do for our bodies and brains? Different foods and drinks do different things for our bodies and brains! Have you ever considered what each food group provides for you?
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale are packed with nutrients and fiber to support healthy digestion. They can also lower your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease.
- Berries like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are full of antioxidants and fiber that will keep you full throughout the day and support healthy skin.
- Nuts, seeds, and other proteins have healthy fats, as well as vitamins and minerals, which may reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- Beans and legumes like black beans and lentils are full of amino acids and proteins that can help your skin heal and keep your muscles strong.
- Whole grains like whole wheat and quinoa can be an excellent source of fiber and provide your body with complex carbs to keep you energized during the day.
You might not know it, but different colored foods provide different nutrients to your body, too!
- Red foods make your heart strong. Foods like red bell peppers, tomatoes, raspberries, apples, watermelon, and cherries are full of vitamins A and C, as well as fiber, to boost heart health.
- Orange foods give you super vision. Carrots, squash, cantaloupe, pumpkins, peaches, and orange peppers are loaded with beta carotene and vitamin A, both super important for good eyesight.
- Yellow foods heal your cuts and keep your stomach happy. Bananas, yellow bell peppers, pineapples, corn, lemons, and potatoes have lots of fiber and vitamin B6 to help with digestion and general health support.
- Green foods help you fight off sickness. Foods like spinach, broccoli, pears, kiwis, green apples and grapes, and cucumbers have lots of nutrients like zinc, iron, and vitamin C to support immune health and strong eyesight.
- Blue and purple foods make your brain and skin strong. Blueberries, grapes, blackberries, purple cabbage, eggplants, and raisins are full of healing antioxidants and vitamins that protect your blood vessels and boost immunity and brainpower.
- White foods help you stay energized. Garlic, onions, coconut, cauliflower, and milk are full of nutrients like calcium and potassium, which will keep you energized and active throughout the day. They also have lots of vitamins that can help your brain stay focused and help your skin heal.
Talk with your family about the benefits of eating nutritious foods to empower them to make healthy choices on their own. Keep it simple with kids under 5 years of age and start introducing more complex topics like reading labels and choosing portion sizes with older kids. Learning to make nutritious choices with your kiddos is a journey, so start small by incorporating a few nutritious options at a time. With time, a positive attitude, and a little help from the kids, you’ll be making more nutritious choices than ever before. Just do your best, remember that fed is best, and don’t forget to drink your water!
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