Nutrition

Nutritional Advice for Your Child

The key nutritional advice for your child is: model healthy eating, let them get involved, stay consistent, make the foundation of your diet real food, and have fun!

Between picky eaters and busy schedules it can be hard to ensure your child is getting proper nutrition. That is without even considering what a balanced diet is for children and which essential nutrients growing bodies need. While it is easy to rely on packaged and processed foods that are both quick and appealing to children, these convenience foods can have both long and short-term health consequences. 

Feeding children healthy food has many benefits for parents. With the right nutrition, children’s moods even out, energy stabilizes, focus improves, and mental conditions are more easily managed. A healthy diet is one of the easiest ways to prevent disease, from childhood obesity to Type 2 diabetes. 

Overall Nutritional Strategies

Nutrition is a decision we make many times every day. It is a continuous process of learning and improvement. While we’ll get into specific foods to include in your child’s diet, there are overall strategies to ensure that no matter how busy life gets, they get the nutrition they need. 

Model Healthy Eating

As parents, the first thing to improve children’s diet is to model healthy eating. They are always watching. Even if they appear disinterested or “grossed out”, over time new and unfamiliar foods become normal. 

If they see you eating fresh fruits and vegetables daily, they will want to try them too. If the only bread in the house is whole grain, that is what they will get used to. As humans we are naturally curious and want to share from a young age. What they see you eating, they will want too. 

Make Mealtimes a Priority

Research has shown that children who eat with their families are less prone to childhood obesity and nutritional deficiencies. Make mealtimes fun. Involve the kids in the prep. Create games and rituals to share together. Talk to kids about nutrition, but don’t push it. They will pay more attention to what you do than what you say. 

Let Them Choose

One of the best ways to get kids to eat more healthy food is to let them pick it or be a part of preparing it.

  • Take the kids to the supermarket and let them pick a fruit or vegetable to try.
  • Plant a garden with the kids. This doesn’t have to take a lot of space or energy, even a few herbs and tomatoes in pots will get them excited to try more produce!
  • When preparing the meal, let your child choose between two vegetables to have, giving them a sense of control. 
  • Make a game of selecting fruits and vegetables in every color of the rainbow. 

You can also ask the kids for ideas. Empower them to help you improve the whole family’s nutrition!

Make Small Changes

While it can be easy to want to jump from mac-and-cheese from a box to kale smoothies, don’t do it. Gradual changes will have a long-term effect. Remember, this is the process of establishing lifelong habits. 

Simple initial changes include:

  • Switch from soda to flavored or stevia-sweetened sparkling water.
  • Add finely shredded vegetables to soups, stews, enchiladas, or on pizza.
  • Replace ice cream with smoothies made with frozen fruits and berries. 
  • Make homemade baked “oven fries” in place of french fries. 

Foods to Encourage

While it is generally best to avoid a strict diet with children, their nutritional foundation should include lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dairy. 

In all cases, the closer the food is to its natural state, the better. That means opt for whole fresh, dried or frozen fruit over fruit juice, and brown rice or popcorn over processed bread. Think of natural peanut butter, naturally sweetened jams, whole grain pasta, natural dried fruit strips, and baked potatoes as some nutrient dense, child-friendly options. 

Foods to Avoid

The main foods to avoid for children are added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and sodium. The problem with children’s diets is they tend to rely on processed foods that are filled with added sugar, salt, and processed fats. This not only leads to poor health in the short term, but can have life-long consequences. 

We’re not suggesting you avoid sugar, salt and saturated fat entirely, but they should not be the foundation of your child’s diet. Instead, focus on whole plant foods, with some lean animal products. Then there is room for the occasional treat.

Putting It All Together

The key nutritional advice for your child is: model healthy eating, let them get involved, stay consistent, make the foundation of your diet real food, and have fun! The more variety of foods consumed, the greater the nutrient profile. Make it a family game, and pretty soon the whole family will be looking and feeling healthier than ever. 

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