A Healthy Eating Guide for Children & Families

A Healthy Eating Guide for Children & Families

Having a healthy and balanced diet as early as childhood can lead to long term advantages.  Your formative years of childhood are crucial to creating and maintaining healthy eating habits that will translate to adulthood.   As a parent, it is important to promote healthy eating habits to your children as early as their toddler years.  There a few factors to consider when understanding how to incorporate healthy eating into your child’s life.  These simple guidelines can lead to a lifetime of healthy eating for you child:

Set The Example – As a parent, your child will look up to you in many ways and eating is one of those we often don’t think about. By practicing what you preach, your child will easily imitate the eating habits you have. 

Set an Eating Schedule – Setting an eating schedule will ensure that your child has three full meals a day.  Also be sure to incorporate two snack meals in between. While setting a schedule will provide structure, please ensure not to force your child to eat should they not be hungry at the “scheduled” time. 

Portion Control – Showing your child portion control at an early age is important.  Use smaller plates or bowls when serving food.  Using the “Hand Guide” can be a fun and interactive way to get your children excited about portion control.  Your palm determines protein portions, your fist determines veggie portions, your cupped hand determines carb portions and your thumb determines fat portions.

Fruits and Veggies – Be sure to incorporate fruits and veggies throughout the day in meals.  For snacks, carrots and apples make for a healthy alternative to chocolate or cookies.  Use dinner as an opportunity to add vegetables such as broccoli and spinach.  Always be sure to make vegetables that you child likes and also include them in meal preparations.  By involving your child, you will better understand their food likes and dislikes.

Don’t Forget Liquids – Liquids are often an oversight when considering healthy eating.  But there are many kids’ drinks that are heavy in sugar, food coloring and calories.  Focus on natural fruit juices such as orange juice and apple juice as well as water and milk.  If your child likes fruit juices, you are mix with water to dilute it.

Bulk Foods – When purchasing foods in bulk, avoid unhealthy snacks such as chips and cookies.  Purchasing single serving snacks or 100-calorie packs can be helpful with not only portion control but still provide your child with a sweet or salty snack in a controlled fashion.  Avoid buying family size potato chips and large packages of cookies to ensure your child doesn’t overindulge.

When Enough is Enough – Inform your children that once they begin to feel full, they can stop eating.  By forcing children to eat everything off their plate, they may be overeating.  Remember, they can always finish their meal at a later time when they are hungry again.

Don’t Give Up – As children grow, they develop different likes in regards to food.  If your child doesn’t like a specific food as a toddler, don’t assume this will not change.   Offer foods more than once as children change their minds as to their likes and dislikes. In addition, offer healthy foods as options to empower your child to make healthy decisions.  For example, ask would you like tomatoes or cucumbers with your dinner?  

By taking the initiative to create effective eating habits for your children you will allow them the opportunity to become healthy and active young adults.