The keys to healthy eating with kids, like many things in life, are planning and preparation. With busy family schedules, the temptation to grab quick, unhealthy meals is huge. However, when kids and adults know that healthy, prepared foods are readily available, passing up the unhealthy choices becomes much easier.
Before you plan, review nutrition basics for kids. Encourage water and milk over sugary sodas and juices. Stick with whole-grain breads and cereals. Serve broiled, steamed or baked rather than fried foods. Remember fruits and vegetables; kids need five servings of these daily. Offer eggs and meats to ensure kids eat enough protein. Check print and online resources for exact nutrient requirements for your child based on age and weight.
Advertisements, vending machines and peers bombard kids with unhealthy snacking temptations. To encourage healthy snacking, prepackage fruits, vegetables and whole grains into easy-to-grab servings. Offer foods that kids find fun and interesting, such as smoothies and kabobs for preteens and teens or foods arranged to look like funny faces for younger kids. Allow kids to help with the preparation to further encourage healthy snacking. Fresh fruits and vegetables served with yogurt or creamy dip for dipping or cheese skewered on pretzel sticks help encourage kids to snack in a healthy manner.
Even for kids, lunch is squeezed into a small time slot and must be eaten quickly. They may eat too quickly, which can lead to overeating. Encourage kids to eat slowly and choose healthy lunches, such as baked chicken breast with mustard or creamy dressing on whole-grain bread. Keep bags of meat, cheese and cut-up fruits and vegetables on hand at all times. Place a basket of whole-grain bread items on the counter. When easy, healthy choices are visible and easy to grab, kids and adults alike are more apt to choose them over unhealthy choices.
Teach kids about portion size with visual tips, such as equating a serving of meat to a deck of cards or the palm of the hand. Remind kids that fruits and vegetables should cover half their plate. For an easy dinner, broil or bake chicken or fish. Mix up a large bowl of salad containing fresh ingredients, such as broccoli, cauliflower, squash, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes. Provide small bowls of healthy toppings such as cheese, nuts and seeds. Place a bowl of whole-grain crackers, muffins or breads on the table. Have kids create the salad half of their plate first, taking time to enjoy mixing in different salad toppings. Include creamy dressing for the salad and fresh fruit for dessert.