Is it really that important what kids eat? The answer is yes! Giving your child a nutritious start will help them grow up healthy and strong.
The consequences of poor food choices in children may not be immediately apparent, especially if your child is not obese or overweight. But, according to FUTURELIFE® Dietician Bianca Prop, the food choices you make for your children when they are young – and then teach them to make for themselves – can impact their growth and development.
The importance of a balanced diet
A balanced diet provides all of the nutrients required for a child’s optimal growth and development. Not only is physical development important, but so is cognitive development. A healthy diet includes vitamins and minerals, as well as protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fiber. And, because children are still growing, they require more of these nutrients than adults.
Pass on the lessons of healthy food choices
Bianca believes that teaching your children to make good food choices for themselves is the key to good nutrition.
“Leading by example is the best way to teach our children about nutrition. We need to model healthy eating for our children by eating healthy ourselves,” she says. “Then we need to encourage our children to continue to choose healthy foods, even when we are not around to monitor what they’re eating.”
Get your kids involved
Bianca also suggests involving the children in the food preparation process, which she believes will increase their interest in eating the food.
For example, when chopping vegetables, discuss the importance of vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
Allow your child to sample the vegetables both raw and cooked, and ask them what they like and dislike about them. All of these strategies may encourage them to try new foods, making it easier to eat a diverse range of healthy foods.
Make healthy food more appealing
Children can easily become bored with certain foods, so making food more than just something that appears on a plate in front of them at mealtime can pique their interest and encourage them to try new healthy dishes. The more creative the meal is, the greater the variety of foods your kids will eat. You can make smiley-faces from veggies or fruit, and give food silly names.
A veggie patch
Planting a vegetable garden with your children is a great way to talk about nutrition and persuade them to try new vegetables. Research the health benefits of each vegetable planted and explain them to your child while planting, harvesting, and cooking these veggies.
Stock up on healthy supplies
Kids, especially younger ones, will eat mostly what’s available at home. That’s why it’s important to stock up on healthy foods. If all you have is veggies and fruit available to snack on, then that’s what your child will eat in place of sweets, cookies, and other sugary foods.