Getting your kids to eat healthy is one of the biggest challenges parents face. In today’s busy world, it’s tempting to drive by a window and pick up a greasy meal in a box (with a free toy!), but that’s not a great way to teach your child about eating healthy. According to the Mayo Clinic, a 4- to 8-year-old will need to consume 1,200 to 2,000 calories a day (depending on age and sex), and childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions. Give your kids a head start to a healthy lifestyle by teaching them to choose the right foods.
Keep a supply of your child’s favorite fruits on hand, and serve some for breakfast. Even kids who don’t like to eat before school will be tempted by a mini mandarin or juicy grapes and it’s a good way to give them “sweets” without indulging them with sugar-coated cereal. Offer whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and a glass of milk, or start them out with oatmeal and blueberries.
Serve sliced vegetables with lunch to fill your kids with fiber and vitamins, or offer them low-sodium soup for a quick filler-upper. Keep nutrition in mind, and get in the habit of reading ingredients before you allow items to land in your grocery cart. Be wary of “fruit” drinks, as many are sugar sweetened. Encourage your children to choose milk or water with their meals.
Make your dinner menus balanced, and don’t overdo the meats and starches. Teach your kids to enjoy a small portion of potatoes, macaroni and cheese or spaghetti, and indulge them with their favorite vegetables as often as possible. Keep desserts simple, with an emphasis on fruits.
Limit snacking to healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain crackers and cheese, and always serve snacks at the table. Allowing your kids to eat in front of the television will encourage them to “graze” without noticing when they’re full.
Avoid fried foods and empty calories when you’re helping your child order at a restaurant, and make unhealthy foods such as French fries, burgers, hotdogs and chicken nuggets a once-in-a-while luxury. Try not to eat on the run, as this tends to lead to unhealthy food choices.