Childhood obesity is still rampant in the United States. Some small steps have made a difference in slowing the rate. Teens are eating breakfast more, which helps cut down on high calorie junk food consumption. Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign is raising awareness of the need for daily exercise for children.
Meals can also be the best way to fuel the body and brain. Kids can learn about nutrition in school and put it into practice by changing eating habits. Here are some very healthy ways to help with the ten most filling but calorie light foods.
1. Fish. Fish averages about 100 calories for a 3 oz. serving. This is not fish sticks with fatty or breaded coating. Fish is very healthy, and many kids, such as salmon, contain Omega 3 fatty acids which fuel the rain and help regulate the body. Eating fish can make you smarter.
Cooking fish doesn’t have to be smelly or leave bad tasting memories. Whitefish, such as tilapia, has little fishy smell. A quick one-pot meal can be assembled in a large pot, casserole dish or Dutch oven. Layer vegetables, such as tomatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, broccoli in the bottom, lay fish portions over veggies, add a little water, season, and bake. Individual foil packets work well, too.
2. Air popped popcorn (no butter) has about 93 calories in three cups. That’s a huge snack for little caloric intake. Avoid salt, which the body gets naturally in other foods. Add flavorings if you must, but sparingly.
3. An apple has 50 – 100 calories. Apples satisfy the crunch factor, help clean the teeth and mouth, are very portable, and in the fall are readily available in so many varieties. Gather the family and go apple picking in the crisp weather. Try some new varieties, such as Honey Crisp or Fuji. Make easy applesauce by boiling peeled apples, a little water and sprinkling in some cinnamon. No sugar is needed.
4. Whole grain bread, pasta, bagels, or cereal. Whole grains contain fiber, which fills the stomach and promotes regular digestion. Fall and winter are great times for hot cereal breakfasts. Oatmeal, cream of wheat, and similar ones with a dollop of homemade applesauce send kids off to school ready to learn. Avoid prepackaged selections, which are high in salt and sugar.
5. Speaking of oatmeal, a half cup contains only 150 calories. Add the applesauce or a handful of berries, which are high in antioxidants.
6. Grapes make a great portable snack. Most fruits contain only about 100 calories or less per serving. Healthy diets contain 4-5 servings of fruit and vegetable per day. Many vegetables contain less. So rinse the fruit and make it readily available for a grab and go snack. Alternate fruit with veggie sticks, (carrots and celery are popular), cherry or grape tomatoes, and get snacking.
7. Add on the veggies. Veggies contain 50 – 100 calories per serving. As with fruit, veggies are a tasty and nutritious snack addition. Kids can easily help prepare a salad for dinner or lunch. Dipping carrot sticks in low calorie dressing is a quick and tasty snack. Toss spinach or kale in a casserole or layer in a sandwich. Get in those 5 servings.
8. Skinless chicken is a great base for many meals and contains only about 100 calories per half cup. Lean, non-red meat and fish should make up the majority of the meat protein we eat. Chicken blends in soups and casseroles with all vegetables, seasonings, and whole grains. Look up some ethnic recipes and try something new.
9. Soup. Hail to soup- the warm, filling lunch or dinner stand by that is a nutritious way to use up leftovers or add in a veggie serving to a daily diet. Almost any meat and veggie combination can go in to homemade soup. Soups make a great place to introduce root veggies such as turnips or parsnips, increase green, leafy veggie intake from kale or spinach, and they are quick and easy. You can season any way you like, add potatoes or whole grain rice or pasta, and the meal is just a homework time til done. What child can resist the smell of fresh cooking soup on the stove?
10. Lean red meat is a good occasional mainstay. Lean beef has 160 calories per 3 oz serving. Although cutting back on red meat consumption is a healthy diet choice, when eaten, It can be filling and nutritious. Avoid seasoning with salt when there are so many other wonderful fresh herbs to grow or purchase to flavor that stew, burger or steak.
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