Providing children with a balanced diet is one of the most important jobs as a parent. Including the right foods when planning a balanced diet for your kids is only half the battle; you must integrate these foods and meals into their everyday routine, too. With a little bit of preparation, you can ensure the food they eat helps them grow while also serving as fuel to get them through the day.
While providing a balanced diet might seem complicated, it is easier than you may think. The following are a few tips to help parents provide a healthier diet for their children.
It Starts at the Plate
The first thing you need to do is learn about the types of foods that should or should not be on your child’s plate. The USDA’s MyPlate is a useful nutrition guide that can provide valuable resources when planning meals for your children.
MyPlate highlights the five food groups that make up the building blocks of a healthy diet. These food groups include grains, protein, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. With these guidelines, the USDA not only illustrates how these different food groups are a part of a healthy diet, but they also recommend different types of food in each group and ways you can mix them in with the diet of your child.
Beyond the five food groups listed above, it is also recommended that you add natural oils to your diet. Things like seafood, nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados are rich in these oils and they provide the body with nutrients like vitamin E and essential fatty acids.
In addition to making sure children get all five food groups, it is also important to provide variety. If your kids are always eating the same foods, they could be missing out on nutrients that are not present in those foods. A good way to do this is to focus on the colors on the plate. Colors often represent nutrients in food, so a wide array of colors on the plate is a good indication that your child is getting a healthy assortment of nutrients.
Healthy Beverage Choices
While paying attention to food choices is important, a child’s beverages also play a role in building a balanced diet. You obviously want to make sure your child is getting enough water every day, but you also need to pay attention to the types of drinks they have throughout the day.
Instead of drinking things like soda or fruit juice all the time, you should encourage your child to get most of their fluids from water. If your child is resistant to drinking plain water, consider adding some natural flavor with lemon or lime juice.
As alternatives to water, you should encourage your child to drink full fat milk, kombucha, tea, kefir, and coconut water. Along with being a source of water, these drinks can also be a valuable source of vitamins and other nutrients. It is also important to note that about 20% of a person’s water intake comes from food, so your kids do not need to get all of their hydration from drinks.
Be a Good Example
Children do not become healthy eaters simply by being told what to eat. They develop healthy eating habits over time. Part of this is continually reinforcing the importance of healthy foods one meal at a time, but the other part is providing an example of healthy eating.
If you want to teach your kids to follow a balanced diet, they need to see you doing the same thing. Try to plan regular family meals where you all sit down to eat a healthy meal together. A family meal is one of the most effective ways to instill good eating habits in children, and it is also an opportunity for you to spend time and connect with your children.
Your young children will eventually grow up and have to make their own food choices. If you don’t start teaching them about a balanced diet and helping them develop better habits, they are likely to make poor dietary choices as teenagers and adults. By taking the time to do it now, you are doing what you can to make sure your children grow up healthy and are equipped with the tools they need to make the right choices concerning their food.