[Sienna Stolhand, 11, from Geneva, prepares fresh herbs for a cooking class led by dietitian Mary Zupke.]
"Overall, we're recommending a Mediterranean-style diet [with] more chicken and fish, more fruits and vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado, as well as low-fat dairy," Zupke said.
As a dairy alternative, one will find calcium in spinach and almonds, or can turn to calcium supplements or calcium-fortified orange juice.
Chicken, fish and eggs have the most absorbable form of iron. Zinc is in meat, shellfish, seeds, nuts, eggs, dairy and whole grains. And for vitamin C, try a little orange juice, or better yet, half an orange, which includes fiber, she said.
Vitamin D is promoted naturally by spending daylight time outside, which dovetails with the recommendation of 60 minutes of outdoor activities daily.
"If you're packing a lunch, look into your bag," Zupke said. "Make sure [there's] a little bit of protein and a little bit of starch. Make sure things do stay cold [or hot]. Offer all the different items."
A touch of creativity can prove enticing, such as creating cookie-cutter shapes of a peanut butter and banana sandwich.
"I encourage kids to garnish in our cooking classes, [such as accompanying] low-fat yogurt with fresh berries and granola," Zupke said. "It can be a great snack. Buy some different varieties. Have something they like and something they may not have tried, so you can continue to expand what they are trying."
She suggested adding vegetables such as lettuce or carrot shreds to tuna with low-fat mayonnaise in a whole-grain wrap.
When eating out and kids demand pizza, include a vegetable topping. Pair lettuce, tomato and pickle with burgers, and maybe hold the cheese. With pasta, skip the bread and a cream-based sauce, and for a burrito, skip the rice. Instead, add vegetables and monitor the serving size of guacamole.
Zupke teaches cooking to youth ages 5 to 18, as well as courses for children ages 3 to 5 with special needs.