When it comes to healthy eating, there is always room for improvement. With busy schedules and fast food so readily available, it’s not always easy to eat healthy. Here are the best strategies to improve nutrition and encourage your family to incorporate healthier eating habits:
Have regular family meals
Children like the predictability of family meals, and it gives parents a chance to catch up with their kids. Kids who eat regular family meals also eat more fruits, vegetables, and grains. Family meals offer the chance to introduce kids to new foods and to act as a role model for healthy eating.
Strive for nutritious food and a time when everyone can be together. This may mean eating dinner a little later to accommodate a child who’s at practice or a lesson. It can also mean setting aside time on the weekends when it may be more convenient to gather as a group.
Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks
Kids will eat mostly what’s available at home. That’s why it’s important to control the foods that you serve for meals and have on hand for snacks. Try to follow these basic guidelines:
- Work fruits and vegetables into the daily routine, aiming for the goal of at least five servings a day. Try to offer fruits and vegetables at every meal.
- Make it easy for kids to choose healthy snacks by keeping fruits and vegetables on hand and ready to eat. Other good snacks include low-fat yogurt, peanut butter and celery, or whole-grain crackers and cheese.
- Serve lean meats and other good sources of protein, such as fish, eggs, beans, and nuts.
- Choose whole-grain breads and cereals so kids get more fiber.
- Limit fat intake by avoiding fried foods and choosing healthier cooking methods, such as broiling, grilling, roasting, and steaming and choosing low-fat or nonfat dairy products.
- Limit fast food and low-nutrient snacks, such as chips and candy.
- Limit sugary drinks, such as soda and fruit-flavored drinks. Encourage water and low-fat milk instead.
Be a role model by eating healthy yourself
The best way for you to encourage healthy eating is by example. Kids will follow your lead, by eating fruits and vegetables and not overindulging in junk food, you’ll be sending the right message. Avoid complaining about your body, this may foster these same negative feelings in kids. Try to keep a positive approach about food.
Involve kids in the process
Most kids will enjoy helping to decide what to make for dinner. Talk to them about making choices and planning a balanced meal. Give them age appropriate tasks to help get them involved in the meal making process. Other ideas to get kids involved include:
- Plant a garden with your kids and/or enroll them in healthy cooking classes.
- Teach your kids why we eat healthy foods and about nutritional values of different foods and how this affects their bodies.
- Allow your kids to choose what goes into their school lunches from a variety of healthy foods.
- Keep healthy snacks available at all times so they are easily accessible when kids are hungry.
- Cut up fruits and vegetables and put them right in front of kids.
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