My New Year’s resolution once again includes shedding a few pounds and incorporating exercise into my life. I know, pretty cliché. However, I have NO intentions of joining a gym or even following a diet program. I aim to make changes to my lifestyle that stand a chance at lasting and might even make a meaningful impression on how Doug chooses to live his life in the future. I do not mean to be down on gyms or diet programs, they help thousands of people lead a healthier life every day, but in my personal experience they have yet to lead to longterm changes. My plan is to include my whole family in this process, to make our lives less sedentary and our diet healthier. Bit by bit, meal by meal, I plan to be more mindful of what I am feeding my family, and to be more intentional with how we are spending our time together.
I figured I would start by making over our breakfast first, but this quickly lead me to ask questions like: what are a 3-year-old’s nutritional needs, anyway? How much protein should I be giving him? I was pretty shocked by that answer!
“Kids require approximately 1-1.5 grams of protein for every TWO pounds of body weight, or more precisely, 1-gram protein per kg (1kg=2.2lbs). Thus, a 40-lb (18.2 kg) child needs approximately 18 grams protein per day!” – Lara Field, Feedkids.com
Starting with the Basics
There are about 8g of protein in 1 (8oz) cup of 2% milk, so it blows my mind that 2 cups of milk meets my 3 year old son’s protein requirements for the day. Clearly it is time to look closer at his other nutritional requirements. It feels odd to realize I never looked into this basic fact of raising a child before. When I was pregnant there was always so much information about how many extra calories you need to consume or how much weight you should be gaining depending on the trimester. Doug was then exclusively breastfed, and he grew so much so fast I trusted he was getting all he needed. We then did baby-led weaning to introduce him to the world of solids, again trusting the breastmilk was really taking care of his nutritional needs. By the time he transitioned to full time solids that trust in him to eat what he needs naturally followed.
While I do trust him to eat when he’s hungry and stop when he’s full, he’s certainly not above asking for cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So lets take a look at our kids’ nutritional needs.
Again I am shocked by the amount of calories little kids need! It’s no wonder my grocery bill is as high as it is. Between 3 meals and 2 snacks a day my little ball of energy seems to alternate between eating me out of house and home, and then going on hunger strike. Again, this is where I try to trust him to listen to his body’s needs, but beyond that it is up to me to feed those needs with a healthier diet. ChooseMyPlate.gov is an incredible resource for those looking for more information on proper eating habits and nutritional guidelines for the whole family. It is full of great general advice that is easy to understand and seems easy to implement.
Nutrition however is not always so straightforward for everyone. Dietary restrictions, allergies, cultural traditions, and other complications mean there is a whole host of diets and advice out there. The MyPlate guidelines seem like a great place to start and to adapt to meet your own household’s diet. I also find the resources and articles on FeedKids.com really helpful for feeding problems outside of strictly nutritional ones, such as picky eating.
Lets Get Physical
Did you notice the above chart includes physical activity as a crucial component of its calorie breakdown? Yeah, me too. What does that exactly mean? Since diet and exercise go hand in hand, it’s not surprising there is a corresponding government website for this, LetsMove.gov.
“Physical activity helps control weight, builds lean muscle, reduces fat, promotes strong bone, muscle and joint development, and decreases the risk of obesity. Children need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day to grow up to a healthy weight.” –LetsMove.gov
The above requirement of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity is recommended for 6-18 year olds, for younger children Lets Move! seems to focus more limiting their tv time to 2 hours per day than it does a set amount of time being active. For adults they recommend 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day. Honestly, 30-60 minutes of activity per day does not seem like too much to ask for. Personally, I believe we get caught up trying to make that 30-60 minutes of activity into something more than it needs to be (like an intense spin class) and sabotage ourselves in the process. Start small and make it a part of your family time; have a dance party with your kids, go for a neighborhood walk, or play soccer in the backyard or local park. If you want to add something like an intense spin class into your schedule, do so because you enjoy it and bring a friend to keep you motivated.
When Doug was an infant I really enjoyed this blog, MamaOT.com. She gave great advice on how to make tummy time engaging, and how to make the most of play to develop fine/ gross motor skills.
The parent’s section on PBS.org has great resources for both food & fitness for families.