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Get Your Child’s Plate in Shape

September 24, 2013

Washington Hospital Seminar Offers Tips for Health Eating

We all know children need to eat a nutritious diet to grow up strong and healthy. But sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly how much of what they should be eating. And even if you do know how to fill their plate, getting kids to eat right can be difficult.

“It’s important to get kids into the habit of eating a wide variety of healthy foods when they are young,” said Lorie Roffelsen, a registered dietitian at Washington Hospital. “It’s harder to change eating habits and behaviors when you get older.”

Roffelsen will offer tips and strategies for families to eat healthier when she presents “Get Your Child’s Plate in Shape” on Wednesday, October 2, from 7 to 9 p.m. Parents are encouraged to bring their children to this interactive seminar, which will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. The cost is $5 and you can register online at or call (800) 963-7070 for more information.

She will first explain what it means to eat a healthy diet based on MyPlate, a tool developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to encourage consumers to make healthy choices based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. With MyPlate, half your plate should contain fruits and vegetables with the other half containing protein and grains. At least half your grains should be whole grains, according to MyPlate. It also includes recommendations for dairy, an important source of calcium and vitamin D, depending on your age.

Nutrient-Rich Foods

    Roffelsen will talk about the important nutrients that are provided by each of the food groups. Fruits and vegetables contain fiber and nutrients like vitamins A and C, folic acid, and potassium. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help to reduce heart disease and certain cancers. Vitamin A helps keep eyes and skin healthy and vitamin C is important for the growth and repair of all body tissues.

Grains contain dietary fiber, several B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium). Dietary fiber from whole grains or other foods may help to reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. B vitamins play a key role in metabolism and are essential for a healthy nervous system.
In addition to providing protein, foods like meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, and seeds contain B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. These nutrients support the healthy development of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.

Dairy products provide calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein. Calcium and vitamin D are critical for the development of strong bones and teeth.

“Serving a colorful array of fruits and vegetables helps to ensure that your child will get a wide range of nutrients,” Roffelsen added. “It’s also recommended to consume low-fat dairy products and lean meats whenever possible to cut down on the amount of saturated fat your family eats.”

She will also address the role of physical activity in keeping children healthy. She said kids should be encouraged to engage in at least one hour of physical activity per day.

Activity Stations

After the lecture, there will be several activity stations set up so parents and children can participate in hands-on activities to learn more about nutrition and healthy eating. For example, one station will be titled “Make, Take and Bake Your Own Pizza,” and will have all the ingredients for children to make a personal pizza.

“Kids like to handle things like dough,” Roffelsen said. “They will be able to roll out their own dough, put on sauce and cheese or other toppings of their choice, and take it home to bake.”
At another station, kids will practice their math skills and be able to measure out the dry ingredients for apple yogurt muffins. They can take the muffin mix home, where they can add the apples and yogurt before baking.

“Open attitudes about eating new foods starts with encouraging children to participate in shopping and choosing foods, and helping with food preparation at home,” she added. “Kids enjoy being involved in the kitchen. Depending on their age and development, they can help with simple food preparation like measuring the ingredients or mixing a bowl, to chopping vegetables, and stirring a pot as they get older.”

Roffelsen will also offer some practical tips such as eating together as a family as often as possible, and avoiding distractions like the television or electronic gadgets while eating. She says you tend to eat more when your attention is focused on something other than the meal, and you may stuff yourself beyond a comfortable feeling of fullness.

“Encourage your kids to try everything, especially new vegetables and fruits,” Roffelsen added. “They may not like something the first few times, but eventually their tastes may grow accustomed to it and they will like it.”

To learn more about eating healthier with MyPlate, visit For information about programs and services offered at Washington Hospital that can help you stay healthy, visit