Help your kids have a healthy relationship with food.
The best time to start healthy habits is at birth. The second best time is now. As a parent or caregiver, you can begin teaching kids the importance of nutrition and smart eating skills today.
If you establish just one rule, make it this: Eat together as a family.
Health and parenting experts agree: this simple practice provides significant, lasting benefits. By eating and talking together with you, kids tend toward:
- Better nutrition
- Fewer behavioral issues at home and school
- More family unity and
- Healthier weight for kids
If daily family dinners aren’t realistic, share dinner, lunch or breakfast one day a week. And keep searching for extra times to squeeze in more family meals. You won’t regret it!
Exactly what foods are healthy for kids?
Important nutrients for children include vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein and fat. Kids need different amounts of these as they grow so ask your doctor for details. And consider these nutrient-rich foods:
- Protein, like seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy product, nuts and seeds
- Fruits: fresh, canned, frozen or dried. For canned fruit, choose the kind that’s packed in its own juice or “light”
- Vegetables: fresh, canned, frozen or dried. Aim for variety including dark green, red and orange, beans and peas
- Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, or brown or wild rice
- Dairy, especially fat-free or low-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages
- Sodium, like in chips and other processed foods
- Refined grains such as white bread, pasta and rice
- Added sugar, like brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup and honey. Avoid soda, sports or energy drinks and other beverages with added sugar
- Saturated fats, trans fats and anything with partially hydrogenated oil. Instead choose vegetable and nut oils and food with naturally occurring oils like olives, nuts, avocados and seafood
More ways to raise nutrition-loving kids.
The most effective way to teach anything is to demonstrate how to do it. So as much as possible, make sure to:
- Have fun preparing dishes together and appreciating healthy food
- Make meals a pleasant, calm occasion for all of you to talk
- Keep your meal time free of TV, phones, tablets and other distractions
- Serve a range of nutritious snacks and meals on a regular basis
- Include cuisines from different cultures with a variety of flavors
- Take every opportunity to emphasize food safety, like washing hands
- Encourage kids to listen to their bodies regarding how much and which foods to eat from what you serve
- Share basic information about choosing healthy foods away from home
If accomplishing all these is too much, just do your best. And be gentle with yourself if you slip up. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent, and any progress you make towards healthy family eating is great!