Spring Forward with Good Eats for Your Family
While we all need a variety of healthy foods every day, our children’s growth and development depends on it. Good food will give your children the energy they need to play, learn, concentrate better, sleep better and build stronger teeth and bones. Here are 24 ways to get kids to eat healthfully.
1. Enjoy a variety of foods every day. Include vegetables and fruit, legumes (such as dried peas, beans and lentils), whole grain cereals, low-fat dairy, lean meat, fish and skinless chicken. (But remember, reduced fat milk is not suitable for children under age 2.)
2. Shop healthy. If you haven’t got a variety of healthy foods in your kitchen pantry or cupboard, you can’t put it on the table.
3. Go for quality, not quantity. Children’s servings may be small — it all depends on their age and appetite. Variety is the important ingredient, so help them to try out different things.
4. Stick to three meals and two snacks every day. Growing children need to be fed frequently.
5. Begin their day with a healthy breakfast. It improves concentration, builds stamina, and helps them to function better at home and at school.
6. Give your children choices. For instance, ask if they want an apricot or a plum, beans or broccoli, an egg or a tuna sandwich.
7. Make that lunch crunch — but skip the chips! Vegetables and fruits make a great snack or lunch box addition. Try corn on the cob, carrots, small cucumbers, green beans, cherry tomatoes, celery, grapes or berries.
8. Freeze in summer. Frozen fruits make great summer snacks. Try frozen grapes, bananas and peach wedges.
9. Keep warm in winter. Corn on the cob, baked potatoes, air-popped popcorn, baked beans and stewed fruits can really hit the spot on cold winter days.
10. Go for a dip. Set up a colourful veggie platter with a variety of dips or salsa.
11. Give water instead of juices, energy drinks and soft drinks. These drinks are full of sugar and caffeine and can often take away kids’ appetite for other foods.
12. Set a limit for sweetened drinks. A healthy suggestion is one small glass of 100 per cent fruit juice a day — about 125 ml. Avoid beverages with the words “drink”, “added”, or “cocktail” in the name. They will have extra sugar added.
13. Make family mealtimes part of your routine. Whenever possible, sit and eat together as a family (and turn the television off).
14. Lead by example. If the kids see you eating well and enjoying a wide variety of healthy foods, they’re likely to join in.
15. Family foods include everyone. Encourage children to enjoy the family foods and meals from an early age (about 12 months). Children will learn to eat what the family eats if they are given the same food and encouraged to try it.
16. Be persistent — you can’t afford to give up. It’s common for kids to love a certain food one day and hate it the next. Just keep offering healthy choices and they’ll soon be eating a wider variety.
17. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Kids can be stubborn, but be patient; you may need to offer a new food 10 times or more before your child will decide to try it.
18. Get the kids in the kitchen. Encourage kitchen skills by having children make a sandwich or salad. Let them wash vegetables and fruit, and make a simple green salad, tabouli or a fruit salad. Being involved will increase their willingness to try new foods.
19. Be consistent. If your child isn’t hungry for healthy food, don’t offer unhealthy substitutes — this will only encourage eating for reasons other than hunger.
20. Give them an encouraging word. Let your children decide how much to eat. Praise them when they make a healthy food choice.
21. Don’t use food to punish or reward a child. A hug or a book is a much better alternative.
22. Hungry or not? Children sometimes eat when they’re bored, sad or lonely. Help your children understand when they’re eating for reasons other than hunger.
23. Let them make their own decisions. At the end of the day, it’s up to your kids to decide whether and how much to eat. Your job is to offer healthy foods at regular intervals.
24. Call in an expert. If needed, get professional help to solve problems or keep the family motivated. Talk with your doctor or health practitioner or contact a dietitian.
Make mealtime family time all the time:
• Eat at least one meal together every day.
• Talk to each other. Turn off the television and radio, and read the newspaper later.
• Plan simple and easy meals for the entire week. Get the whole family involved in making a menu for each day.
• Involve your children in making a grocery list and doing the shopping.
• Let the whole family help out with getting supper on the table. (Younger children can set the table and older children can help cook). Take this time to explore different ways to prepare food and talk about new foods.
• Allow each child to choose one or two items that will be served at the meal (for example, their choice of vegetables).
Quick and easy breakfast ideas
• A bowl of cereal with milk and fresh fruit.
• Blend fruit, milk and yoghurt for a breakfast smoothie.
• Toast whole wheat bread and serve with peanut butter and jam.
• Warm up leftovers: last night’s casserole, sliced meat on whole wheat bread, or pizza.
• Set the breakfast table the night before, even if it is only for juice and cereal.
• Be a role model and let your child see you eat breakfast too.
• Aim for at least three food groups from Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating.
Breakfast on the go
Out of time in the morning? Try a combination of these ingredients:
• Whole wheat bagel, muffin, or granola bar
• Fresh fruit
• Fruit juice (100 per cent pure)
• Cereal (in a plastic container.