Dietitians frequently receive questions from parents on how to encourage their children to eat healthy. Parents generally know how important healthy eating is, but they face challenges incorporating this into their daily lives. To help dietitians assist parents, Peanut Bureau of Canada developed some easy and HEALTHY tips.
Have fun. Don’t make eating a chore or responsibility. Allow children to participate in grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking, so they can develop an interest in healthy eating naturally. Talk to children about how a balanced diet includes foods from all of the four food groups. The National Peanut Board has lesson plans available for educators, which dietitians and parents can also use to help children learn about peanuts.
Eat breakfast. Children should start the day with a good breakfast to feel and do their best. According to the Dietitians of Canada, children who eat breakfast are more alert at school, have healthier weights than those who skip breakfast and are more likely to get the nutrients they need each day.
Avoid unhealthy snacks. Young children have small stomachs that fill up and empty quickly, so it's natural that they'll want a snack or two in between meals. High-sugar and sodium-filled snacks should be avoided, but this doesn't mean you have to discourage snacking entirely. Fill your grocery cart with fruits and vegetables and other healthy snacks.
Let children have some control. Give children simple tasks, such as serving rice or vegetables at the dinner table. Teach them about the nutrition in the different food groups, but encourage children to make their own decisions about what and how much to eat.
Try something new. Healthy eating doesn't have to be boring and it could be more than just carrot sticks and kale juice. The Peanut Bureau of Canada (PBC) offers a wide range of innovative, delicious and healthy recipes that you can try at home.
Home-cooked meals are better for children. Although there are many healthy dining options available, children who eat home-prepared meals are more likely to get a balanced diet.¹ With a little bit of planning, cooking at home can become a more enjoyable process.
You are the role model. Parents should keep in mind that they are the role models for their kids. Children love to mimic what their parents do and are likely to enjoy a variety of foods and develop healthy eating habits if this is what they see.
¹ Eat Well Play Well – At Home. Dietitians of Canada. October 30 2012 http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Toddlers-and-School-Age/Eat-Well-Play-Well-At-Home.aspx.