We all want to keep our kids healthy, but sometimes that can be easier said than done. Junk food is readily available, and that coupled with a busy lifestyle can mean your child isn’t getting proper nutrition.
Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is key to a child’s growth and development. What they eat can have a profound effect on their mood and energy levels, too.
Let’s take a look at what we should be feeding our kids to help keep them healthy, happy, and strong.
The Five Main Food Groups
It is of utmost importance to include nutrient-rich foods in your child’s diet. In order to stay healthy, our meals should include something from all five food groups, as recommended by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture):
Foods that are rich in protein include red meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, nuts, and beans. Try to vary the protein in your child’s diet.
Serve a variety of vegetables from different categories and with different colors. These include dark green (such as broccoli or spinach), red and orange (carrots, red peppers, sweet potatoes), starchy (white potatoes, corn), and others (lettuce, squash). These can be fresh, canned, or frozen.
These are split into two subgroups – whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains have a lot of nutrition and provide excellent fiber, but they can be harsh on the stomachs of children who have a sensitive digestive tract.
Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel, and foods made with whole grain include whole-wheat bread, brown rice, bran cereal and bread, popcorn, and oatmeal. Refined grains include white bread and white rice.
Encourage your child to eat a variety of fruit. This can be fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit, but keep in mind that dried fruit and fruit juice can be high in calories.
Milk and other dairy products are an important part of your child’s diet, as they contain a range of vitamins and minerals – including calcium, which children need to form healthy bones and teeth.
Dairy products are also a good source of energy and protein. This group includes milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt.
Make Mealtime Fun!
One of the best ways to help your child understand the importance of a healthy diet is to get them involved at mealtimes. Why not let the kids choose a healthy recipe?
There are plenty of cookbooks and websites that offer quick, easy, healthy recipes. Your children can help to write a list of the ingredients, and they can even come with you to the grocery store to choose them.
Get them involved in the preparation as well, and that way they can learn new skills such as chopping, mashing, and measuring ingredients – which can be fun as well as educational. Kids not only get to see the work that goes into a meal, but they’re also more likely to eat it if they’ve had a part in its creation. It’s a great way to spend time together, too.
Always make time for breakfast – children need to start the day the right way. Even if it’s just a piece of fruit and a glass of milk, this will give them energy and set them up for the day ahead.
Eat meals together as much as possible. This helps to reduce snacking and improve social skills, and it’s a great way of catching up on each other’s day.
Make Healthy Snacks
Slice an apple and eat it with yogurt or peanut butter, make homemade fruit ice pops and smoothies, and try crackers with honey or cheese.
Try freezing slices of fresh fruit to use as ice in kids’ drinks on a hot day. They’ll enjoy eating the fruit as it defrosts.
Make snacks more exciting and colorful, cut fruit and vegetables into interesting shapes, and add a mixture of different-colored berries. All of this is great for teaching children how delicious healthy food can be.
Children’s Doctors in Northeast Massachusetts
Talk to your pediatrician for more tips and advice on how you can help your child have a healthy diet. Children’s Health Care is a pediatric provider offering comprehensive care from birth through adolescence. From routine immunizations to personalized pediatric nutritional advice, our experienced staff does it all.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call our Newburyport office at (978) 465-7121 (Lower Level) or (978) 388-9880 (Upper Level), or our Haverhill office at (978) 373-6557. We look forward to seeing you.