Nutrition matters, but it’s hard to cut through all the diet plans, alarmist warnings, and photoshopped magazine spreads to find something that works for you and your kids in real life.
At the same time, America is experiencing an epidemic of lifestyle diseases increasing mortality and harming the quality of life. Our kids’ eating habits matter now, since it literally fuels their development, learning, and growth potential, and they are a foundation for a healthier future.
Here are our top picks for realistic, achievable ways to encourage healthy eating habits in your kids.
Lack of preparation leads to poor mealtime and snacking choices. Healthy eating habits start with the weekly grocery shop. Whole foods are better than packaged because they don’t have unhealthy additives like preservatives, salt, sugar, and other added flavorings, but they are more work to prepare.
Consider batching your meal prep. Pick a day and time every week or every few days as appropriate to your needs to wash, peel, chop, grill, or otherwise prepare whole foods into snackable format. This saves time during the week and makes you more likely to grab a healthy snack or eat a healthy meal when you’re hungry, instead of reaching for something packaged. A few fast, healthy, and tasty recipes on hand also solves the problem of what to make for dinner.
Frozen vegetables are a great alternative for those who struggle to find the time and/or motivation to deal with whole food prep. Freezing preserves most of the flavor and nutritional value and tends to provide whole foods in washed and precut formats. Canned foods may be a viable alternative, but watch out for added salt, sugar, or preservatives to extend shelf life.
Go age appropriate
Our nutritional needs and tastes change as we enter different stages of life. This handy guide to healthy eating can help you get up to speed. An infant, toddler, growing child, or teen, each has different needs, and there can be quite a variation between individuals in terms of food sensitivity, metabolism, and activity levels.
If you understand your child’s nutritional needs based on their stage of development, you’ll be better equipped to offer meals or snacks that are actually healthy for them, not just marketed as being age-appropriate. Kids that are getting developmentally appropriate nutrition tend to be higher functioning, better at learning, and happier.
Heavy on the (healthy) fats
Today’s adults were taught that low fat meant healthy. Unfortunately, we were all duped. Dietary fat intake does not mean your kids are going to get softer around their middles. In fact, more healthy fat in their diets can help them support better body composition and healthier whole-body growth.
Dietary fat is essential to proper biological functioning, supports brain development, and provides satiety–that feeling of fullness–cutting down on unhealthy snacking or binge eating. Salmon, avocados, and olives are all sources of healthy fats. Butter and whole-fat dairy from grass-fed cows, eggs, and animal protein can be beneficial as well.
Gaining a better understanding of your kid’s nutritional needs, stocking healthy foods in accessible formats in the home, and increasing the amount of healthy fat in your kid’s diet can support healthier eating habits. Having access to the right foods is more than half the battle.