You may think you won’t ever get your family to eat healthy. But you can teach your child healthy eating habits for life. Healthy eating is choosing nutritious foods most of the time. Nutritious foods contain the necessary vitamins and minerals that are good for the body. These nutrients will help your child grow healthy and strong.
Many busy parents give up on getting children to eat healthy: They say it is just too hard. Here are their reasons why:
- Kids are born liking sweets. TV ads for sugar-filled foods and drinks make kids want them even more.
- Their children do not want to try new foods, and fighting over food is no fun for the family.
- They don’t have the time or money to buy and make healthy meals.
Good news! It really isn’t hard to eat healthy. But first you must learn the whys, whats, and hows.
Healthy eating perks
Below are some good reasons for teaching your child about healthy eating. Check off the ones that mean the most to you:
- Healthy eating can help keep my child from being sick as often.
- Healthy eating can help my child stay at a healthy weight.
- Healthy eating can help my child grow up strong and fit.
- Healthy eating as a family can help my child learn to eat healthy for life.
It may seem like an uphill battle to change how your family eats. Change can be hard. But you can start small. We will give you ideas about some changes you can make and how to make them. Choose one or two of these to try. As you get better at these first changes, you can choose a few more. Even learning to make one or two healthier food choices can help your family.
Healthy eating doesn’t mean “going on a diet.” And you don’t have to avoid the foods your family likes. Keep these two rules in mind to help you make good food choices for your family.
1. Balance means eating foods from each of the basic food groups. Variety means eating a wide range of the foods in each food group. Eating a mix of foods helps your child to get the vitamins and minerals his body needs.
2. With moderation, all foods, including all your family’s favourites, can fit into a healthy eating plan. Moderation means avoiding too much of any one food or type of food. With moderation your family can have some sweets, chips, and other junk foods. Just make sure they eat only small amounts, and only once in a while.
Textbox: No off-limit foods
If you tell your child he can’t have certain foods, he may want them even more. So, don’t forbid any foods. But put limits on some foods. You’re the parent, so you make the rules about what can be eaten and when.
The whole family can join in eating healthier foods. As the parent, you can teach your child to make better food choices. As your child, he can be allowed to do some things for himself.
What you should do
Your part is to give your child healthy food choices and to teach him by example. That means you must eat nutritious foods yourself. Your role is to:
- Shop. Buy many kinds of healthy foods. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Prepare meals. Make healthy meals at home. It will be good to ask your child to help.
- Serve foods. Offer different kinds of healthy foods at each meal.
- Lead by example. Show your child how you want him to eat by eating well yourself. Remember, your child is watching you.
What your child can do
Your child’s part is simple. Let your child choose which healthy foods to eat and how much to eat at each meal. Your child’s role is to:
- Decide what to eat. When your child starts eating solid foods, let him pick from different healthy foods at each meal.
- Tell you when he’s full. Your child may eat a lot at some meals and not as much at other meals. This is normal. It balances out over time.
- Taste a small amount of new foods. Don’t expect your child to eat a whole serving of a new food, but do ask him to taste it. Sooner or later, he may start choosing it for himself.
Setting the table
Try to serve your child food from all the food groups every day. Give him many kinds of healthy foods from each group to help him learn to like new tastes. And set some limits on food and drinks that have a lot of sugar.
To get your child to eat from all the food groups, be sure to serve him these essential foods:
- Veggies: leafy greens (like lettuce and spinach), tomatoes, carrots, peppers, squash and corn.
- Fruits: apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, watermelon, pears.
- Whole grains: breads, crackers, pasta, rice that says ‘whole wheat’ on the package and not just ‘wheat.’ If the first words on the list of ingredients are ‘whole wheat,’ ‘whole corn,’ or ‘whole oats,’ then those foods are better for your family.
- Lean meats: chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, pork.
- Dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt. These can be high in fat. Get those with the words ‘low-fat’ or ‘nonfat’ on the package. Eating less fat can help kids maintain a healthy weight as they grow.
Three great ideas
When you stick to a few good ideas, you won’t feel like there’s too much to keep track of. Here are three ideas to get you started:
1. More water and milk
Water and milk should always be your first choice for your child.
- Water doesn’t have to be boring. Offer your kid fizzy water, add an orange slice, or make ice cubes with fun shapes.
- Growing kids also need milk. Milk gives kids calcium for strong bones and healthy growth. Be sure to give whole milk, not skim, to kids under age 2.
2. More fruits and veggies
It is important to add more fruits and veggies to your family’s table. Fruits and veggies can taste and look good, and they can be easy to prepare and serve.
- Buy fruits and veggies fresh, frozen, or canned. Or try growing your own.
- Serve fresh fruits and veggies raw. Kids often like the taste of sliced raw fruits and veggies.
- Veggies can also be steamed, microwaved, or cut up and mixed into stews and soups.
3. Less sugar
Sugar in foods and drinks can fill kids up. They won’t be hungry for healthy foods then.
- Foods like pastries, candy, and ice cream are high in sugar. Limit how much of these you buy and serve.
- Drinks like soda, fruit juice, and sports drinks should also be served less often. Offer more water and milk instead.
- Give fruits for dessert and snacks when kids want something sweet.
Staying on the go
Healthy eating will give your child the energy he needs for good growth, but kids also need to get out and play. Get him to have at least 60 minutes of active playtime every day. It doesn’t have to be all at once. By bedtime, a few playtimes of 10 to 20 minutes within the day will all add up.
Active play can include the whole family. Walk to the park. Get out a Frisbee or soccer ball. Dance around the house to music. Work together in the garden. Start a game of tag in the yard. Ask your child what he likes to play and get the whole family to join!
Textbox - Check with the doc
If your child has food allergies or other special needs, be sure to talk to his paediatrician about what he should eat. If you are worried about your child’s weight, his doctor can help you with this, too. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about healthy eating for the whole family.