Teaching your kids about healthy eating is a family affair. It is about setting an example and setting expectations that can be attained by not only your children, but you as the primary care giver. You don’t want to set your nutrition standards so high each day that you never attain them. Kids need to know that even a sugary treat or a high-fat food item is OK in moderation. We don’t want them to feel deprived; that could lead to trouble with eating disorders later in life.
The USDA recommends that no more than 10 percent of your total caloric intake each day should be from high-sugar, high-fat foods. So if your child is on an average 1,800-calorie-a-day eating plan, then he or she should not have more than 180 calories per day of sugary, high-fat foods. 180 calories is not a lot, so choose foods with some nutritional value and you could maybe up the calories a bit. For instance, a can of soda has no nutritional value and could easily be 180 calories or more, but a frozen yogurt with fruit or nuts in it could also be more than 180 calories but you have calcium and vitamins as well.
Here are some tips and suggestions to keep you and your family on track to a healthy eating plan:
1.) Family meal times should be a priority. I know it is hard with after-school activities, but try to schedule at least one meal a day that is unhurried and focuses on the family as a whole. For some families this may be breakfast, not dinner.
2.) Meals on the run, eating in the car and dinner via drive-thru should be a last resort, not the daily pattern. If possible, pack a picnic dinner. If weather permits, eat dinner with some children, while another is playing a sport. The sport playing child can join the picnic after practice. If it is cold and rainy, use the car as your alternate picnic site, but everyone should try to face each other a bit, not eat in rows.
3.) Don’t plan your day around the food you eat. Plan the food you eat around your day. Children should learn early on that we eat to live, not live to eat. I think food should be enjoyed, taste delicious, and satisfy the senses. We should not just be eating for the sake of eating.
4.) Try to get your kids to eat a rainbow everyday. I know it sounds corny, but kids relate to it. Just like color of food is appealing, so are the textures and tastes of foods. Select things that are crunchy, squishy, soft, and silky. Introduce a new spice or seasoning to add variety. Reduce the amount of condiments you use and let the natural flavors of foods shine through.