If you struggle to get your kids to eat healthy meals, or to put down the sugary treats, you’re not alone. Encouraging healthy eating is a hard-fought battle for most parents, as is the fight against childhood obesity. Mealtimes needn’t be a battle, though; the pediatricians at Woodburn Pediatric Clinic have compiled their top 5 tips for healthy eating that will encourage your children to make the right decisions now and in the future, for a lifetime of health.
- Eat Breakfast: Eating breakfast is important, especially for kids with growing brains and bodies. A healthy, balanced meal jump-starts their day and keeps them focused in class. A nutritious breakfast has also been proven to both help children academically and to help them make healthier food choices throughout the day. Even if you’re short on time you can avoid toaster pastries loaded with fats and sugars; choose whole milk and fresh fruits, yogurts that can be eaten in the car, granola bars, peanut butter on whole-grain toast, or eggs with an English muffin.
- Model Good Behavior: Practice what you preach, especially at meal times! Show your children that healthy eating is fun and delicious by eating the foods you want them to. Aim to eat from the five main food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein) every day, and show them that they can have fats, salt, and sugar in limited quantity. Eating meals together as a family is also a great way to demonstrate what proper portion sizes look like, and to show that our bodies typically need 25 minutes to feel full after we eat a meal.
- Water is Best: Soda and fruit juices are delicious, yes, but they often pack almost as many calories as a piece of cheesecake! Encouraging your child to drink water every day will help them avoid unnecessary sugars and fats, and will help combat childhood obesity. Oftentimes we mistake hunger for thirst, causing us to overindulge in unhealthy snacks. Staying hydrated helps to avoid this all-too-common pitfall in the fight against bad habits. If your child thinks water is boring, you can try sugar-free, low-sodium sparkling waters in fun flavors; or dress up your tap water with lemons, limes, and berries for a refreshing taste.
- Snack Smart: Kids instinctively reach for chips, candy, cookies, and fast food when they’re hungry because these options are quick and easy. Pre-plan healthy snacks when you grocery shop and meal-prep to help your kids make smarter choices, even when you’re not at home to supervise. We recommend buying healthy granola that they can eat by the handful or pack in baggies to take to games or study sessions, lean lunch meats they can use in a sandwich or pita pocket, and of course, fresh fruits and vegetables that you wash and prepare so they’re easy to eat when hunger strikes. Yogurts, cottage cheese, baked vegetable chips, hard boiled eggs, and fat-free popcorn are some other great ideas that kids of all ages will love.
- Prepare Your Own Meals: Take-out and restaurant meals are fast, convenient, and quite frankly, delicious. But they’re not healthy by any stretch of the imagination. If you’re looking to improve the quality of meals you and your family eat, or to encourage weight loss for a better lifestyle, your best bet is to cook your own meals at home. You can create quick and tasty meals by baking chicken in the oven, steaming vegetables, and whipping up some quinoa or brown rice. A grill and crockpot are handy tools for simple and delicious meals made in a jiffy, and they’re widely available at local stores for great prices.
Healthy eating can be fun, simple, and delicious for the whole family with these tips from our staff. Encouraging your kids to try new recipes, eat fruits and veggies, and eat sugar and fats in moderation will help them avoid childhood obesity, and will set them up for a healthy and successful future. If you have questions about your child’s health needs or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us today at Woodburn Pediatric Clinic.