Good habits start at home. Developing healthy eating habits is the same. It is a parent’s responsibility to carve their children a lifestyle that involves a good relationship with food. Since it is National Healthy Kids’ Day, today’s post is for you and your little ones.
Benefits of Healthy Eating Habits for Kids
Good nutrition in children means so much more than keeping sickness at bay. It is a holistic approach that helps them make the best of their childhood.
- Healthy kids are strong kids. Children need a good balance of nutrients to support the development of their brain and body. Healthy skin, hair and nails, as well as strong bones and muscles are not a given even when a child as been breastfed. Your child’s immune system is the same. In fact, at different ages a child’s body requires different portions and amounts of calories, proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy.
- Healthy kids are smart kids. There is no better way to ensure good brain development in children than through good nutrition. Well-nourished school kids also exhibit sharp mental focus and good academic performance.
- Healthy kids are happy kids. Food is not just fuel for your kids’ body. Good nutrition in children has been found to be helpful in regulating energy levels in children. Thus, keeping conditions such as ADHD and ADD away. Of course, a well-fed kid is less likely to be cranky.
Last, healthy kids are most likely to become healthy adults. Most of the time, adults who eat well are only maintaining and enriching the good eating habits they have learned when they were young.
Ideal Food Items for Kids
The ideal source of vitamins and minerals, especially for children, should be the food they eat.
Here are the basic types of food kids need to be healthy:
- Protein. Protein builds muscles, produces hemoglobin and promotes cell growth
among many other things. Fish and other seafood, lean meat, free-range poultry, legumes and beans are among its most common sources.
- Fruits. Fresh fruits are an excellent source of dietary fiber that helps your kids’ digestion. Try to stay away from canned and preserved fruit because they contain excess amounts of sugar which are added during the canning or preservation process. Freshly-squeezed fruit juices are also ideal over canned and instant juice mixes.
- Vegetables. Aside from their fiber content vegetables offer a wide variety of nutrients. To raise healthy kids, incorporate these vegetable subgroups in the family’s weekly menu:
- Dark green vegetables – rich in antioxidants, vitamin K, C and A, calcium and iron
- Red and orange vegetables – rich in flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, vitamins C and A
- Beans and peas – are a good source of plant-derived protein. They are also rich in minerals such as zinc and iron.
- Starchy vegetables – provide B vitamins, minerals such as potassium and magnesium, and antioxidants especially the rich-colored ones like sweet potatoes and yam.
Check out this guide by ChooseMyPlate.gov for suggested weekly amounts per vegetable subgroup.
- Grains. Grains are another rich source of dietary fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins and trace minerals. Limit your children’s intake of refined grains. Instead, opt for whole and unrefined grains such as: Whole oats/oatmeal, Brown rice, Wild rice, Buckwheat, Millet, Quinoa, Sorghum, and 100% whole wheat flour.
- Dairy. To build strong bones, kids need calcium. Milk is the number one source of calcium for children past the breastfeeding stage. Vitamin D has been found to play an important role in bone health. Choose formula that is fortified with Vitamin D. Yogurt is also a great dairy product for kids. It contains loads of probiotics that maintain gut health, a good amount of protein and it is a tasty way to satisfy your kids’ sweet tooth.
The proper portion for these foods can be found in this guideline by MayoClinic.org.
Here is the catch: healthy parents raise healthy kids. There is no better way to teach your children healthy eating habits than to be a good example. It will also be good to develop a connection between your children and with the food they eat. You can do this by involving them in the planning meals, buying food and even cooking.
If it helps, you can sign up for cooking classes and workshops to know better about family nutrition. Common Threads is a good place to signup for programs such as these. Of course, they also have programs for school kids that your kids can join.