Healthy Eating Tips for Parents:
- While we all have super busy lives, implementing healthy eating habits for young children is very important in their development and well-being. It sets the foundation for a lifetime of making healthy and mindful choices. Read on for some great ideas to make health and nutrition a regular part of their daily routine.
- Offer a range of healthy foods. When children eat a variety of foods, they get a balance of the vitamins they need to grow. Healthy options include fresh vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheeses) or dairy substitutes, lean proteins (beans, chicken, turkey, fish, lean hamburger, tofu, eggs), and whole-grain cereals and bread.
- Don’t expect children to “clean their plates.” Serve appropriate portion sizes, but do not expect your child to always eat everything served. Even better, let your children choose their own portion sizes. It is okay if children do not eat everything on their plates. At this age, they should learn to know when they are full. Some preschoolers may be picky eaters. Parents can encourage their children to try new foods, but they should not pressure eating.
- Offer regular meal times and sit together. Try and set regular meal and snack times. Children who are eating or “grazing” throughout the day may not be hungry at mealtimes, when healthier foods tend to be available. When it is meal or snack time, turn off the TV, and eat together at the table. This helps create a calm environment for eating.
- Limit processed food and sugary drinks. Another suggestion is to limit how much processed food is in the house and to limit fast food. Most important is to limit sugary drinks. Sugary drinks include soda, juice drinks, lemonade, sweet tea, and sports drinks. Sugary drinks can lead to cavities and unhealthy weight gain.
- The best drinks are water and milk. The best drinks for children are water and milk (including non-dairy milk). Milk provides calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones. Whole fruit is preferable to fruit juice, even if it is 100% juice. If you offer juice, make it 100% fruit juice and limit it to small amounts as juice is a concentrated source of sugar and low in fibre.
- Small portions for small children. It is important to pay attention to portion sizes. Four- and five-year-olds need smaller servings than adults. Encourage your children to choose their own serving size; use smaller plates, bowls, and cups.
- Turn off the TV—especially at mealtimes. Make meal-time a great opportunity to have meaningful conversations, especially about healthy eating and good habits; The best way to accomplish this is put in place a “media curfew” at mealtime, putting all devices away and “unplugging”.
- Role-model table manners. Mealtimes are great “teachable moments”. It’s a great opportunity to implement table manners by modeling acceptable etiquette such as not talking with a full mouth, using a napkin, and not reaching across another person’s plate. While it’s still necessary to explain these rules, it’s much more important to model them; your child will watch to see how the rest of the family is behaving and follow their lead.
- Another great way to invest in healthy eating habits for young children is to include your children in planning and preparing for meals. Have your child set the table or help in some other way in preparing the meal.