Try these strategies to help kids stick to a healthy diet

Try these strategies to help kids stick to a healthy diet

JGI Photos / Jamie Grill / Tetra

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in the ’90s eating Pop-Tarts for breakfast and canned spaghetti for dinner. That day, while I was at BJ’s grocery store to buy my 4 year old son school lunchI saw those foods from my childhood and more. After the wave of nostalgia passed, I thought about how harmful those meals I had grown up eating were.

I want my son Healthy food From what I did I think we are on a good path so far. I know there are no guarantees and he might end up eating pasta every day when he goes to college, but mom has to try.

Today is National Child Health Day, and while this includes the physical, mental and emotional health of the child, I wanted to focus on The importance of feeding children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention He says healthy eating can help facilitate growth and development in our children and prevent health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The recommendation is that they start following healthy eating patterns at the age of two.

Ideally, your child should eat a mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. There should also be a limit to the amount of solid fats, added sugars, and salt they consume. To keep kids on this path, you often have to start by making healthy eating a lifestyle and keeping it fun and easy, says Ashley Carter, co-founder and director of EatWell Exchange She is a registered dietitian in Miami. This means not only keeping healthy foods in plain sight, but also educating them about the importance of eating in a balanced way.

“Teach your child how to understand the importance of healthy food and how it benefits their bodies,” she says. “Explain which foods help their hair grow, how you can prevent them from staying sick, or even how you can help them stay focused in class.”

Jasmine Westbrooks, co-founder of the same nonprofit and registered dietitian, adds that parents’ eating habits matter, too. “What you say is important, but it’s also what your child sees you do, so be a role model,” she says. “It is common for your child to try to drink from your cup, or put their little fingers on your plate. So make sure you have nutritious foods so that you follow your lead for a healthier lifestyle.”

Despite trying to keep things healthy at home, kids may not always be open to trying new vegetables and healthy foods. Parents often try a combination of tactics including “hiding” vegetables in the foods they love. While it might get your kids to eat it, you want to create positive messages about vegetables versus making them something that should be kept secret or tricked into consuming. To get your kids to try new foods, consider having them taste the food as a science experiment, says Johan Philemon, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Based in Atlanta. “Ask them to describe the look, color and feel of the food. Have them taste the food and then describe the taste, texture and how it feels in their mouths. Children love a good experience.”

A dietitian also recommends starting with a pea or thumb-sized amount when introducing new foods because large portions can confuse children. If they are confused, they are less likely to want to try a little new food.

Another tip for maintaining positive messages about healthy foods is to avoid rewarding children for eating them. You should especially avoid rewarding them with sweet treats and the like, says Carter.

“Change the way you think about ice cream for having fun at the zoo or garden or watching a movie at home. Also, don’t use water or healthy foods as a punishment because that might prevent them from seeing it as a positive option,” she says.

However, we cannot always protect children from unhealthy and processed foods as they are likely to be exposed outside the home. It is also important to remember that a few unhealthy foods or snacks now and then should not deviate from the values ​​you are trying to instill in them. The key, Philemon says, is to keep processed foods out of the house and stock up on plant-based foods.

“In general, if you’re consuming at least 80% plant-based foods, you’re doing pretty well.”

If your kids bother you about buying Cheetos or candy every day, you can find healthy alternatives. Westbrooks explains that we often look for comfort, texture, or taste in those foods. To help with their cravings, look for options that have the characteristics of the unhealthy foods they want or will give them similar satiation.

“For example, crunchy potato chips, try a very crunchy or even sour apple or my favorite, popcorn,” Westbrooks says. “For something sweet, try frozen berries, frozen fruit, or freeze some yogurt. It’s like the texture of ice cream. Don’t stop there. Add a bit of whipped cream and some mixed nuts for protein for a sweet-salty taste but is full of heart-supporting fiber.” “.

Carter adds that you can combine dark chocolate chips, which are rich in antioxidants to fight inflammation, with mixed nuts and some dried fruits like raisins or cranberries as the perfect snack. Other snack ideas to try with your little ones include no-bake oatmeal protein bars, homemade raspberry and banana muffins, and peanut butter energy balls.

Helping your children foster a healthy relationship with food is not something that gets done quickly. It is an accumulation of good habits. Remember to be flexible, make it fun, involve them in the process, and focus on the endless benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle along the way.

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