Getting children to eat healthfully these days is more complicated than just encouraging them to eat their Brussels sprouts. Studies suggest that many children often skip breakfast, they’re also eating more foods prepared outside of the home (which often means bigger portions), drinking more sodas and consuming less dairy. Teach your children good eating habits that ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need—but not too many calories—with these 9 easy shopping and healthy cooking tips.
What you stock your kitchen with will influence your children’s food choices. Leave high-fat, salty and sugary snacks off your grocery list. Instead, fill your cart with fruits and vegetables, particularly portable ones like apples, bananas and carrots. Other healthful snacks include low-fat yogurt, natural peanut butter and celery, and whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese. Choose water or milk over soda.
Allow your kids to participate in the grocery shopping and encourage them to choose healthy snacks. This will increase the likelihood that they will eat these snacks instead of less healthy ones.
There are creative tactics you can employ to make sure your child is getting plenty of calcium. Add low-fat cheese to meals and snacks: put Cheddar in an omelet; add a slice of cheese to sandwiches; create mini pizzas by topping whole-wheat English muffins with pizza sauce and part-skim mozzarella; make grilled cheese sandwiches appealing by using cookie cutters to create fun shapes.
Diving vegetables and fruits into yummy dips makes lunch more fun. Offer apple slices with a half cup of low-fat vanilla yogurt; serve carrot sticks with a side of hummus.
Get The Recipe: Creamy Herb Dip
Be a role model and teach your kids to make balanced choices when eating out. Add a green salad to your order and request low-fat or light dressing; choose mustard instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches; opt for stir-fried or steamed dishes rather than fried.
Few kids crave a fiber-rich meal. But fiber is filling and when combined with drinking plenty of water, helps prevent constipation. A high-fiber food has 5 grams or more of fiber per serving and a “good” source of fiber is one that provides 2.5 to 4.9 grams per serving. Some fiber-friendly foods include cooked navy beans (9.6 grams of fiber for ½ cup), a medium baked sweet potato with skin (3.8 grams) and bran flakes (5.3 grams).
Get The Recipe: Sweet Potatoes with Warm Black Bean Salad
Serve single portions and your kids will be less likely to overeat. Avoid letting the kids take an entire bag of chips or a container of ice cream to the couch; instead, dish out individual portions in the kitchen first. Or, if you cook large batches of food and store the leftovers, separate them into smaller portions before you put them in the fridge or freezer. This way, your kids can automatically grab a single portion.
Add more fruits and vegetables to your family's diet: they’re low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals. Eating fruit or vegetables at the start of a meal can help curb hunger, provide a sense of fullness and reduce total calorie intake over the course of the meal.
Get The Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Wrap
Teach your kids what a reasonable portion size is. A serving of rice is about the same size as an ice cream scoop (approximately ½ cup), so let your child use the scoop to serve rice at dinner. A piece of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards, so see how that chicken breast measures up.