Providing Kids With a Balanced Diet
One of the most crucial things you can do as a parent is to assist your kids in developing healthy eating practices. All three food groups—vegetables and fruit, whole grain goods, and protein foods—must be included in a child’s balanced diet.
A child needs three meals a day and one to three snacks (morning, afternoon and possibly before bed). The food you provide during meals and the snacks you serve are both equally significant.
Whole, fresh, and unprocessed foods—fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, and meats—as well as home-cooked meals, are the healthiest options.
Sugar and Sugar-Free Options
- Provide foods without sugar or sugar alternatives. Reduce your intake of honey, molasses, syrups, brown sugar, and refined sugars including sucrose, glucose-fructose, and white sugar. They all contain comparable amounts of calories and promote tooth decay.
- While sugar substitutes like aspartame and sucralose are far sweeter than sugar and have no nutritional value, they do not add calories or promote tooth disease. They could cause your youngster to develop the habit of just enjoying sugary meals and make it challenging for them to accept fruits and vegetables. Limiting them to your child’s diet is a wise suggestion.
Water and Juice
- When your child gets thirsty, especially in the intervals between meals and snacks, offer water.
- One serving (125 mL; 4 oz) of 100% unsweetened juice per day is the maximum.
- Giving your child genuine fruit instead of fruit juice will increase their intake of good-for-them fiber.
- Children occasionally drink too much during meals or in between meals, which causes them to feel full.
The mineral sodium helps your body’s fluid balance. Additionally, nerve and muscle function depend on it. However, consuming excessive amounts of salt can cause high blood pressure, which raises the chance of developing heart disease. Salt is a frequent name for sodium.
- As often as you can, give your youngster wholesome, low-sodium foods.
- Foods that have been processed or are pre-packaged frequently include a lot of sodium.
- A fondness for salty foods, which is connected to obesity and/or sickness later in life, might result from consuming too much sodium as a youngster.
- To compare items, use the% Daily Value (DV) on food labels. Search for foods having a 15% DV or lower salt level.
- When selecting foods for your child, keep in mind the appropriate sodium intake:
|Age||Enough consumption (mg/day)
(2,300 mg is equal to 1 level teaspoon of table salt.)
|0 to 6 months||110|
|7 to 12 months||370|
|1 to 3 years||800|
|4 to 8 years||1000|
|9 to 13 years||1200|
|14 years +||1500|
Is Overweight a Problem?
Healthy fats contain essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 that cannot be made in the body and must come from food. Use vegetable oils for cooking, such as canola, olive, or soybean.
Healthy fats are also found in salad dressings, non-hydrogenated margarines, nut butters (e.g. peanut butter) and mayonnaise.
Many fats that are solid at room temperature contain more trans and saturated fats that can raise your risk of heart disease. Limit butter, hard margarines, lard and shortening. Read labels and avoid trans or saturated fats found in many store-bought products, such as cookies, donuts and crackers.
Limit processed meats, such as wieners and luncheon meats, which are also high in fat, sodium (salt), and nitrates (food preservatives).
As the Parent, It’s Your Job To:
- Set regular meal and snack times that work for the whole family. Share mealtimes and eat with your children.
- Offer a balance and variety of foods from all food groups at mealtimes.
- Offer food in ways they can manage easily. For example, cut into pieces, or mash food to prevent choking in younger children.
- Help your children learn to use a spoon or cup so they can eat independently.
- Include your child in age appropriate food preparation and table setting.
- Avoid using dessert as a bribe. Serve healthy dessert choices, such as a fruit cup or yogurt.
- Show your child how you read labels to help you choose foods when shopping.
- Avoiding fast food restaurants shows your children the importance of enjoying mealtime as a family, while eating healthy home cooked meals.
It’s Your Child’s Job To:
- Choose what to eat from the foods you provide at meal and snack time (and sometimes that may mean not eating at all).
- Eat as much or as little as they want.
What if My Child Is a Picky Eater?
Don’t stress too much if your child refuses a food product or meal. Refrain from giving them something else in between meals just so that they eat. They will eat better at the next meal.
Don’t worry too much if your child doesn’t seem to be eating enough. If their weight and size is on track, they are probably getting what they need. Just make sure to offer your child a variety of foods from all food groups to make sure they are getting the right nutrients. Your child’s doctor will monitor their growth at regular appointments and will let you know if there are any problems.
Children’s appetites change from day-to-day, or even from meal to meal. Because they have small stomachs, children need to eat small amounts often throughout the day. Children know how much food they need and will eat the amount that their body needs.