Healthy eating necessary at any age

Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
02/05/2018 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Healthy eating necessary at any age
SALINA – Having a balanced healthy diet is important. Tonya Swim, a clinical dietician at the A-Mo Health Center, provides a look into each life phase when it comes to eating healthy.

“Having well-rounded eating habits is about having a healthy relationship with food. It isn’t about depriving yourself of things you love, but being able to balance food that is just for fun and food that provides what our bodies need,” Swim said.

Babies (0-12 months)

For babies less than a year old, Swim said they benefit most from breast milk or formula if producing milk isn’t an option. When a child turns 6 months old, solid food can be implemented into the diet.

Toddlers (1-2)

Swim said toddlers’ tastes for food change so she suggests not force-feeding them but instead letting their appetites be the guide.

“What they once loved they may turn their head, too. That’s OK. Continue to offer those foods,” she said. “Their appetite will change from day to day also.”

Swim said meal times should be a “fun, happy and relaxed” time in a toddler’s day and foods should never be treated as rewards or punishments.

“Good behavior and accomplishments need to be rewarded with hugs and high fives,” she said. “Food should never be used as a reward or withheld as punishment. We want to avoid developing an unhealthy and emotional attachment to food.”

Children (3-12)

Swim said it’s important to get children to be “adventurous.”

“Encourage new foods and be adventurous, but do not force feed,” she said. “Three-year-olds may be very picky so try a new food with an old favorite.”

She said it’s also important to get them away from the TV when they eat and make eating together “family” time. “This will help children focus on their meal and not start to develop mindless eating habits.”

Swim said it’s also important to teach children about “special foods” like desserts and sugary beverages.

“Things that don’t have a lot of nutritious value like sugary beverages and desserts should be special foods,” she said. “Allowing your child to have a special food once or twice a day helps to teach them moderation.”

Teenagers (13-18)

Swim said it is important for teenagers to learn that healthy eating and physical activity could improve their moods, help them in school and give them more energy. She added that calcium intake is important for bone health and protein for muscle growth.

Although teenagers were likely introduced to fast food and added sugars as children, Swim said teens should be cautious of eating those items in excess. “Fast food and sugar added foods and beverages are things teens need to be cautious of since they have extra calories and not a lot of nutrients for growing bodies.”

Young adults (19-35)

As teenagers begin to transition into young adulthood, Swim said they should be “realistic” about their routines.

“If you work two jobs, cooking from scratch for every meal may not be realistic. Plan, plan and plan some more. Things like a crockpot, (instant pot) and one-pot meals can be time savers,” she said.

Swim suggests those looking for more energy should stay away from energy drinks and over-sugary coffees as they only provide a “slight” boost and not “real” energy. She added that too much caffeine could be harmful. “While you don’t become addicted to caffeine, you can develop a dependency on them.”

Older adults (36-59)

Swim said older adults should still be mindful of foods and drinks they ingest as well as participating in physical activities.

“If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension) or you have been told that your blood sugars are high (diabetes) then there are some things you need to limit,” she said. “Discussing your current health with a doctor and knowing your numbers sets you on the path to controlling your health.”

Elders (60+)

Swim said it’s important to continue healthy routines as people age.

“Many people at this point in their life have been diagnosed with some type of health problem,” she said. “Meeting with your doctor and registered dietitian to help develop a plan and set goals to meet your health needs is important.”


Swim said there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet and that people are different and should recognize their food triggers. “Keep a food and feelings journal so you can track patterns with your emotions and the food choices you make. Distract yourself with other things you enjoy.”

Swim suggests contacting a registered dietitian if anyone has trouble getting into a healthy eating routine or figuring out what meals work best. For more information, visit


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