An important part of raising healthy kids is raising healthy eaters. Kids seem to be born with a love for chocolate and sour gummies and a distaste for anything that resembles a vegetable. As parents, how can we raise kids who will try new foods, make healthier choices and learn the importance of a balanced diet as they get more independent?
Start as soon as you begin serving solid foods.
Name the fruits and vegetables you are serving, even if they are pureed, so kids can identify taste and colour of each food.
Eat with your child so they see you enjoying a variety of fruit and vegetables.
Serve food in bowls and on plates and not out of pouches if you can. Today grocery store shelves are full of convenient self-serve pouches that are teaching kids early to depend on packaged food for meals and snacks, potentially starting an unhealthy habit early.
Teach your older kids how to MAKE themselves a snack and have a list of excellent snack items -such as cheese, yogurt, hard boiled egg, almonds, peanut butter and whole grain toast, veg and hummus, apples and nut butter – taped to the inside of the pantry door.
Have family discussions at meal time about what is on your plate, what makes a healthy balanced meal, what is protein and why it is important, where calcium is found and how to get enough whole grains and fibre.
Give kids the tools to make healthy choices by giving them the facts on processed foods and the benefits of real food.
Shop Smart/Cook Fast
Shop smart by filling your grocery cart with essentials to get you through a week of healthy snacks and balanced meals and have go-to meals that are simple.
Buy THIS Not THAT
Don’t stock the pantry with party mix and chocolate cookies and expect your kids to grab an apple or a yogurt. We are so used to grabbing packaged granola bars, yogurt in tubes and anything that says whole grain or fat/sugar free that we are missing out on real food that is just as convenient, easy to prepare and SO much healthier. Buy healthier options to make healthy choices easier.
Buy real fruit NOT fruit snack packages or fruit cups
Buy whole grain bread NOT white
Buy cheddar cheese NOT cheese slices
Buy these oats and NOT prepackaged just-add-water oatmeal
Buy whole grain pasta NOT artificially flavoured just-add water packages
Buy skinless chicken breasts NOT battered wings
Buy lean ground turkey NOT hamburger
Buy real fish fillets NOT battered sticks in a box
Buy full fat/greek yogurt NOT aspartame, flavoured and coloured tubes
Buy whole grain cereal with less than 8gm sugar per serving NOT coloured fruity, chocolate o’s
Buy 100% juice NOT of punch, cocktails or anything labeled a sport drink
Your kids may not always enjoy the healthier options, but if you continue to explain the importance of eating real food often, treats and favourite foods occasionally, then they will begin to understand the relationship between eating healthy and being healthy.
We certainly love our cookies and chocolate here, but we aim for healthy whole grain breakfast, protein and fruit at lunch and plenty of protein and vegetables at dinner . . . and sometimes our chocolate cookies have zucchini in them!