By Beth Ann Bentley
You don’t want to set your nutrition standards so high each day that you never attain them. Kids need to know that even a sugary treat or a high-fat food item is OK in moderation.
In general, focus on high-quality, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy. This should be the bulk of your family’s diet – even if some days are better than others. From there, leave room for the occasional treat that may be higher in sugar or fat without the nutritional benefits. The goal is to get your essential nutrition from all the good-for-you foods first, and then, if you have room, treat yourself. Setting this example as the parent is a must if you want healthy eating to become a family affair.
Here are some tips and suggestions to keep you and your family on track to a healthy eating plan:
- Family meal times should be a priority. I know it is hard with after-school activities, but try to schedule at least one meal a day that is unhurried and focuses on the family as a whole. For some families, this may be breakfast, not dinner.
- Don’t plan your day around the food you eat. Plan the food you eat around your day. Children should learn early on that we eat to live, not live to eat. I think food should be enjoyed, taste delicious, and satisfy the senses. We should not just be eating for the sake of eating.
- Try to get your kids to eat a rainbow every day. I know it sounds corny, but kids relate to it. Just like color of food is appealing, so are the textures and tastes of foods. Select things that are crunchy, squishy, soft, and silky. Introduce a new spice or herb to add variety and color.
- Try cuisines from another country. Traveling around the world with food encourages children to expand their palates.
- Encourage eating enough to satisfy hunger and give our bodies fuel. Don’t eat until you are uncomfortable; again, not eating for the sake of eating. My 3-year-old puts it the best: ”My tummy says it can’t fit any more food.”
- Make “anytime foods” available all the time. Try to make “anytime foods” – like fruits and vegetables — readily available: a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter or a container of yogurt on a lower shelf in the frig. “Sometimes foods” should be less accessible in the kitchen and dining areas.
- Never skip meals. Children should eat three meals and snack between meals, as needed.
- Water. Offer it. Encourage the consumption of it. Children need water. Really! Really!
When a meal out at a restaurant is on your family’s agenda for the day, whether it’s because you’re short on time or just want to enjoy a meal out together, search Healthy Dining Finder for Healthy Dining menu choices near you that complement your lifestyle.