Eating right: No matter how good our eating habits are, there are always things we can do better.
Getting the right amount of food at the right times is important in every household, but particularly to those Flint households impacted by exposure to lead in the city’s municipal water supply.
Infants’ and children’s tummies are smaller, more sensitive and require special care.
Skipping meals or leaving out ingredients can limit the protective power of lead-fighting nutrients.
Serving healthier foods in smaller portions throughout the day is good for all kids. It is even more critical if they have been exposed to lead because their bodies absorb lead more quickly than adults.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO NOW
There are things parents can do to protect against lead absorption and help get their children on the path toward better health.
Serve plenty of foods rich in calcium, iron and vitamin C, say pediatricians like Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of the MSU and Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative.
“We know serving them plenty of foods rich in these vitamins and minerals acts like a shield of sorts to help limit the absorption of lead in their bodies,” she says.
WHEN TO EAT
Timing is everything. Children who have been exposed to lead need to eat regularly. When they eat is as important as what they eat.
“Avoid empty stomachs,” says Hanna-Attisha, who notes research has shown children with empty stomachs absorb more lead than those with full stomachs.
Aim to serve three healthy meals and two healthy snacks daily. And get in plenty of “super foods,” known to help protect against lead absorption.
Serving the right amounts of these recommended foods must become a part of Flint families’ everyday lives, according to pediatricians and dietitians, who advise that skipping meals or missing nutrients can limit the protective power of lead-fighting ingredients.
WHAT TO EAT
Foods high in calcium, such as milk, yogurt, cheese and green, leafy vegetables are among the recommended super foods.
WHY VITAMIN C
Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron better and shields against lead absorption, according to Marci Scott, a registered dietitian nutritionist and vice president for health programs at the Michigan Fitness Foundation.
Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple, strawberries and melon. Cut them into bite-size pieces and combine into a hearty fruit cocktail. Fruits also make great toppers for breakfast cereals and yogurt, and make great on-the-go snacks.
Greens are a great source of vitamin C too. Incorporate them into soups, salads and sauces to boost the nutritional value of some of your family favorites. Good options include Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, kale and other dark, leafy greens. Tomatoes, bell peppers and cauliflower also contain high levels of vitamin C.
When farm-fresh produce is in season, use WIC Project Fresh coupons and Double Up Food Bucks at the Farmers Market. You can learn more about what’s in season at http://www.mihotm.recipes/in-season. Also, don’t forget to check out the frozen-food aisle at your local grocers. Many carry a wide array of frozen fruits and vegetables, which can be as nutritious as fresh, and handy when fresh is not in season.
LOOK FOR THE PLUM SHIELD
It’s easy to get burned out when we eat the same foods all the time, so it’s important to switch things up and add new varieties of foods to our tables.
The Michigan Fitness Foundation (MFF) has made it easier than ever to find healthy new recipes. Visit their website www.mihotmrecipes and click the plum-colored shield to find tasty, easy-to-prepare recipes that contain ingredients that help protect against lead absorption.
With eight ingredients or less, recipes can be easily changed based upon what you have on hand at home.
EAT HEALTHY AND THEY WILL, TOO
Our kids imitate us. When we are good eaters, there is more of a chance that they will be good eaters too. That’s why it’s important for them to see us enjoying plenty of “super” foods every day.
Editor’s note: See this month’s STIR for more great tips on getting in your greens. To learn more about delicious, healthy recipes that help protect against lead absorption, click on the plum-colored shield at: www.mihotm.recipes