Nutritious food is vital for everyone no matter what age and stage of life. The right foods are not only good for growing bodies to nourish their development, but also childhood is an important time to establish healthful eating habits that will last a lifetime.
Eating Enough Without Getting Too Much
Feeding children enough food for proper growth but not so much that it causes excess weight gain is one of the many tricks to balancing nutrition for children. The following tips and information can help.
- Do away with the Clean Your Plate Club: The food is never going to get to starving children in another country and it is not necessary to force children to eat everything on their plates at every single meal.
- Small tummies = small portions: Because kids eat less at any given time, they need to eat more frequently to keep up with energy demands.
- Offer snacks: Instead of eating a lot in one sitting, let kids follow their hunger and satiety cues and learn to stop when they are full. Offer snacks between meals to stay energized.
- Appetites fluctuate: Some days children will be ravenous for a large after-school snack or meal, and some days they will only pick at dinner. Children’s appetites fluctuate based on activity level and how large other meals of the day have been.
Pay close attention to choking hazards such as hard or round objects that can get lodged in the small throats of younger kids.
Give them time to eat. Kids tend to eat very slowly. Don’t rush them. Rushing can lead to not properly chewing or choking and can also foster feelings of stress around mealtime, which will turn them off to sit-down meals.
Make eating nutritious food fun! Try funny names for foods (“ants on a log,” for example) when feeding younger kids. Kids also tend to love to dip food, so offer yogurt dips, ranch dip, nut butters, or hummus when serving fresh fruits and veggies.
Stock your cabinets with kid-friendly plates, cups, and utensils so they look forward to eating from their own dishware.
Kids love to be involved, so include them in planning, shopping for, and preparing healthful meals to get them excited about eating them.
Your child will not turn 18 years old and magically love broccoli if he or she was never exposed to it when growing up. Serve fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and other nutritious foods early on so their taste buds are used to these flavors. A “do as I say, not as I do” method does not work with feeding kids. If they never see you eat vegetables it is going to be tough to convince them to eat them on a regular basis. Or if they see you eating desserts and chocolate all of the time, guess what they are going to ask for?
Proper portion size is another area of role modeling that is key to feeding kids right. If they are used to seeing you filling your plate with nutritious foods and eating smaller portions, then they will be more likely to follow suit.