Try to talk to your child about the foods he’s eating when you’re not around. If he is into sports, highlight the importance of a healthy diet to his athletic performance. If he’s concerned about his complexion, highlight the impact of healthy foods and water to a clear complexion. When you explain the benefits of healthy eating as it applies to things he’s particularly concerned about, he may be more likely to take your advice.
Encourage your child to get involved in meal planning and preparation. He will be able to help out even more in the kitchen at this age. For example, have him decide the ingredients in a salad and have it be his responsibility, from the grocery store to the dinner table.
Keep items in your kitchen healthy. If you buy chips or cookies, your child will eat them. While he’s helping himself to snacks in the kitchen, making healthy choices is easy if it’s the only choice he has. And if you can’t control what he eats out of the house, you can at least make sure that what he’s eating at home is healthy.
Teach your child about the importance of a well-balanced meal. Have him demonstrate that knowledge by packing his own lunch, or planning a family dinner. Make sure he has half the plate filled with fruits and vegetables.
Help your child listen to his body during meal time by removing distractions. That means no texting, no TV, no computer or other gadgets at the table. This will help him identify when he’s full and when he’d like more.
Try to make sure your child has healthy snacks packed for after school. As his metabolism increases at this age, it’s likely he’ll need a snack after school. Having a healthy option on hand may help keep him from picking something unhealthy out of a vending machine or at a store.
Vegetables are powerhouse foods, packing in lots of nutrients with little calories. They are vital to overall heath and may lower the risk for chronic diseases and some cancers.
Bring your child to a farmer’s market, or produce section of the supermarket, and have him pick out a vegetable he hasn’t tried before. You can find a recipe and prepare the new vegetable together.
Try an at-home cooking competition. If your child has siblings, give each child the same vegetables and ask them to prepare them for the family to taste test. A friendly competition can get everyone thinking about new ways to eat vegetables.
Add vegetables to soups. Even if you don’t make your own soup, adding some vegetables to low-sodium broth can increase your child’s vegetable intake.
Have an at-home salad bar for dinner. Finely chop a variety of vegetables and let your child add his own toppings. Some children don’t love lettuce, but once it’s chopped with a lot of other vegetables, or even fruits and nuts, it can be more appealing.
Fruits are full of nutrients to support your child’s growth and development and are a part of a healthy balanced diet.
Keep fruits available and easily accessible for your child to help him choose fruits as a healthy snack. A fruit bowl on the counter with bananas, apples, and oranges is one good option. Or cut up fruits and place them in storage bags in the refrigerator for easy access.
Try to incorporate a serving of fruit in your child’s breakfast. A whole piece of fruit or sliced fruit in yogurt or cereal are good options. Apples and bananas are good options for children who are on the go. They can be easily packed, or eaten in the car or on the bus on the way to school.
Do a small science experiment with your child. Choose different fruits and have your child guess which ones will dehydrate faster. Use a dehydrator or your oven to dry the fruits and see if he was right.
Most Americans consume more than enough protein, so it is important to focus on the types of protein you child eats. Choosing lean meats, seafood, eggs, processed soy products, and nuts will keep saturated fat consumption down and can help lower the risk of heart disease.
Try substituting fish for beef in your family’s tacos. Popular for years in California, the fish taco is a great way to increase your child’s healthy protein intake. Tilapia or mahi mahi, which are white and flakey fish, are good options for a taco.
Substitute Greek yogurt for other yogurt. Greek yogurt has more protein than traditional yogurts. It can also be more tart. Add a touch of honey or fresh fruit if your child is used to a sweeter yogurt. You can also add Greek yogurt to a smoothie to increase protein.
Try recipes with quinoa or use it as a rice replacement. In addition to being a whole grain, quinoa is also high in protein and is a great way to add whole grains and more protein to your child’s diet.
Dairy products offer many nutrients your growing child needs. Sticking to low-fat and nonfat dairy options after age 2 is recommended to keep your child’s fat intake down.
Pack low-fat string cheese for a healthy snack. It can be packed with lunch or grabbed as a quick snack for a way to increase dairy and protein consumption.
Use yogurt-based dips for vegetables as a healthy alternative to higher-fat dressings or sour cream-based dips.
Grains are divided into the whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains are more nutritious than refined, or processed grains. Try to make at least half of your child’s grains whole grains.
To increase whole grains and experiment with new grains, cook brown rice with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). Add black beans, greens, and salsa for a healthy dinner bowl.
Try to choose only whole grain cereals. If your child loves cereal for breakfast, providing only whole grain cereal is a good way to increase your child’s whole grain intake. Check the label to make sure the main ingredient is whole grains. Add chopped fruits or dried fruits for sweetness instead of buying sugary cereals.
Try increasing your child’s oatmeal intake. Oatmeal is a great way to increase whole grain consumption for your child. Two-ingredient oatmeal cookies are a healthy treat he can make herself. Simply mix two mashed bananas with one cup of oatmeal, form into cookies and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Oils & Fats
The body needs some fats for energy and growth. But not all fat is the same. Bad fats are generally solid at room temperature while healthier fats, like oil, are generally liquid at room temperature. Too much fat in the diet can lead to increased risk of heart disease. To lessen that risk, focus on healthier fats and moderation overall.
Try cooking with olive or canola oils instead of butter or margarine. It’s an easy substitution to make, and you’re swapping in healthier fats.
Stay away from harmful trans fat. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list, this means there is trans fat in the product, even if the front of the label says “0 trans fats.”
Sodium & Salt
Studies show most American children consume much more than the daily recommended limit of 1500 milligrams. Too much sodium in the diet can lead to higher blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for heart disease. Reducing your child’s sodium intake can reduce that risk.Try to make as many meals at home as possible. Your child may be eating more away from home at this age, which can mean his intake of sodium is going up. Encourage your child to choose fresh, healthy foods when he’s not with you.
Try to make as many meals at home as possible. Your child may be eating more away from home at this age, which can mean his intake of sodium is going up. Encourage your child to choose fresh, healthy foods when he’s not with you.
Instead of relying of packaged energy bars, which can be packed with added sodium and sugars, put nuts and dried fruits in a storage bag for a healthier on-the-go energy snack.
Always try to pick a low-sodium option when available. This can be in pre-packaged foods at the grocery store, or even when you’re eating out at a restaurant.
Added sugars have no nutritional value adding only calories to foods. Consuming too many added sugars can increase your child’s risk of weight gain and obesity, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Try to limit added sugars as much as possible from your child’s diet.
Teach your child about moderation. He is likely very influenced by his peers at this age, and may want to follow their unhealthy eating habits. Teach him that he can have treats his friends may be having every now and then, but not every day.
If you can, buy your child a re-usable water bottle to pack in his lunch, carry at school, and take to after-school activities. If he has water handy, he may be less likely to choose soda or sports drinks to quench his thirst.