Taking the time to teach your kids about nutrition is one of the best steps you can take to help support healthy growth.
As a parent, you want your children to have the healthiest food possible, but good nutrition for kids goes beyond what's being served at the kitchen table today. Even though your kids might need your help now, they'll be making their own decisions about food before you know it.
Jennifer Williams, MPH, Pediatric Nutrition Research Scientist with Abbott, shares how you can give them some direction for solid nutrition education.
Keep It Age Appropriate
You know that kids' growth requires a healthy diet with plenty of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, but how do you translate that information into kid-speak? 1
Younger children tend to do best with simple explanations that are easy to remember. Instead of trying to explain the science, tell them that "milk helps your bones grow" or "pasta gives you the energy to run faster" and helpful reminders like "eat the colors of the rainbow" to get the vitamins you need to stay healthy.
Older children can handle more detailed information, and to keep it engaging, you might focus on everyday examples that are relatable to them. Next time your child asks why you're having chicken for dinner again? you can explain that chicken is packed with protein to provide the building blocks for muscle — which could help with performance on the soccer field. When your child is fighting a cold, offer a bowl of fresh fruit and let them know that fruits and
Vegetables contain key antioxidants that can help their immune system.
When you're trying to steer your child toward better food choices, it can be tempting to focus only on breakfast, lunch and dinner meals, but snacks can have a big impact, too. In fact, according to recent National Health And Nutrition Examination survey data, for U.S. children, ages 2-5 years, snacks can make up about 30 percent of daily calories, and many of those snacks are often from low-nutrient snacks, desserts and sweets. 2
Help your kids make better choices throughout the day by packing their bags with snacks that provide vitamins and minerals, protein and healthy fiber. Fresh fruit and yogurt, celery with peanut butter or trail mix are all great examples of healthy snacks that kids will love. And, don't be afraid to offer the occasional treat — a good balance can help teach kids to make healthy choices down the road.
Teach Healthy Habits
Good nutrition means getting all the vitamins and minerals you need, but it also means enjoying lots of different foods. Make time for relaxed family meals that give your children the opportunity to really appreciate the food you prepare.
Not only do they give you time to bond, regular meals help to establish a healthy eating schedule with a few snacks in between meals rather than grazing or eating small amounts throughout the day.
Eating together and talking about the way food tastes and what goes into it can also help kids develop a healthy relationship with food and eating. Because it takes time for fullness signals to travel from the stomach to the brain, slower, more mindful meals teach kids to tap into their sense of satiety to prevent overeating.
When it comes to nutrition for kids' growth, the most persuasive message of all may be nonverbal. Parents are a powerful influence in shaping children's food preferences and habits. If you prepare, eat and enjoy lots of nutritious foods, the chances are good that your child will eventually follow your healthy example.
References: 1. Mayo Clinic Staff. Children’s health. Nutrition for kids: Guidelines for a healthy diet. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/nutrition-for-kids/art-20049335?p=1 Date Accessed: April 2021. 2. Hess J, et al. Nutrients 2014;6:4750-4759.
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