How to help your child eat healthy

Children and their food choices can be such a struggle. As a parent, how do you know if they are eating enough healthy foods? How do you teach them to eat healthy?

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  • What parent wouldn’t love to have the key to their child’s concentration, performance on tests, behavior problems, and tardiness? Nutrition plays an important role in all of these areas, but as a child grows it can become difficult to ensure they are getting the nutrients that they need. Many times, parents are left wondering how they can help their child succeed in the game of health and nutrition. Rather than limiting calories as a way to encourage good health, focus on good, overall nutrition and food choices. Focus on these food choices when planning meals. Build your meals around whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Choose lean meats, then broil or grill meat instead of frying. Remember that eggs and nuts are also good sources of protein.

  • Make sure you offer 5 servings of fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Give children water or milk instead of sugary drinks or soda which can be full of sugar and empty calories. Let the kids help pick out food, plan meals, and cook. Children who are invested in the meal are more likely to eat and enjoy it. Having regular meals is important, and meals that are shared with other members of the family are more likely to be nutritious.

  • Despite your efforts, your child may still not want to eat healthy foods. Children may need to be introduced to a food several times before he will even taste it. Once he tastes it, it may be several more times before he likes it. However, don’t force your child to try foods; just continue to offer a variety of food choices. Avoid fights over food. Children are less likely to eat healthy if they are in a battle over food. Don't use food to reward or punish your child, and make sure your child is hungry.

  • Snacks also play a role in a child’s nutrition. Snacks should be limited so they don’t interfere with nutritious meals. Remember, if it is available a child will eat it. Some healthy snacks to have available are low fat yogurt, fresh fruits, nuts, reduced fat cheese, pretzels, low fat cottage cheese, fresh vegetables and dried fruit. If a child’s snack is interfering with his meal, then the snack must be changed or eliminated. Remember, the child will be eating a nutritious meal so it will be fine if they don’t have a snack.

  • As parents, we are not only responsible for nutrition but for troubleshooting nutrition for our kids. Here are some tips.

    • Limit fast or convenience foods; use fresh or prepared from scratch.

    • Send a homepacked lunch if your child is not choosing healthy food at school.

    • Cut up fruit and vegetables and place in containers.

    • Keep cold water in the fridge.

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  • One of the most important factors in our battle for good nutrition is example. Your child will eat the way that you eat, so make sure your eating habits reflect the importance that nutrition has in your life.

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Michelle is the mother of two children who are in high school and elementary school. She enjoys sports and outdoor activities. She enjoys traveling and sharing new adventures with her children.

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