Bad habits are hard to break. However, the same holds true for good habits. When children observe and experience good habits instilled by their parents, they are more likely to stick – especially around food.
It is crucial to begin practicing healthy eating habits early on in your child’s life. One of the most important conversations to have with your child is the power of healthy eating.
The Benefits of Healthy Eating
As children grow and develop, they need important nutrients to be strong and healthy. Some of the benefits of healthy eating include:
Strong bones and teeth
Improved mental health: Makes us think clearly and be more alert
Maintaining a healthy weight
Preventing chronic diseases
Recommended Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh produce provides vitamins, nutrients, fibers, and minerals that are essential in keeping your child healthy. It is recommended that children consume five or more servings per day. Therefore, most of your child’s plate should be covered with colorful fruits and veggies. The more variety of colors and nutrients you add to your meals, the better.
Fresh produce is available in grocery stores, local farmer’s markets, food pantries / meal assistance programs, and even subscription boxes.
How to Create Healthy Mealtimes
As a parent, I know that mealtimes can sometimes seem daunting because of busy schedules and having the necessary resources. Creating and maintaining a stable routine in your diet will help you, and it will help your child look forward to mealtime. Here are ways to help create healthy mealtimes.
Plan weekly meals together, so you can talk about healthy food options.
Take your child to the grocery store so they can see healthy options and talk about them. Have them pick produce from each different nutrient to consume throughout the week.
Read the labels for nutritious facts together.
Cook meals together to show them that what they are eating matters.
Challenge your child to fill their plate with as many different colors as they can – eat the rainbow! Need ways to incorporate vegetables? Check out these tips.
Make a contest by having your child try a new produce they have never tried before. Maybe they will end up loving it!
Sometimes the battle is making sure your child is consuming the foods they need to reap the health benefits that these foods provide. Show them the value of eating balanced diets using the chart below. Teach your child the importance of each nutrient and in which foods it can be found. Many times, children do not want to eat something, but when it has a benefit or “superpower” that they can understand, they may be more willing to try.
Dr. Emily is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Urgent Care and Primary Care Clinics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She has a strong interest in child advocacy, and serves as the medical director for CAP4Kids Columbus.
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