Sometimes getting your kids to eat healthy foods may seem like a challenge. However, the food habits that your kids develop can make a big difference in their health and weight now and in the future. Here are some nutrition tips to remember at mealtime to keep your children healthy.
Teach your kids to make smart choices when eating out.
Fast food is filled with calories, sugar, fat, and has little fiber and other nutrients. Since sugar is burned quickly (compared to fiber), this may leave kids feeling less full and eating more later in the day. Over time, these can lead to weight gain.
Teach your child about nutrition by making healthy choices when eating outside your home. Try healthy alternatives to fried foods, such as salads or fresh sandwiches, when eating out at restaurants. Choose water or low-fat milk instead of soda.
Choose small or regular sized portions, rather than super-sized portions when eating out. When meals are large, teach your kids to eat a regular portion size and take the rest home to eat later.
Provide healthy drink choices for your kids.
Kids should drink low-fat milk or water instead of sweetened beverages or soda. Juice and soda can contribute to weight gain and tooth decay.
Soda does not have any nutrients and regular soda is high in calories and in sugar. The calories from drinking regular soda throughout the day can really add up quickly. While diet soda may not have the calories of regular soda, it may still lead to tooth decay.
Juice does have some nutrients, but it is also high in calories and sugar. While it is more nutritious than serving regular soda, it does not have the same amount of fiber as whole fruit. If you do buy juice, check the label and pick juices that are made with 100% juice. The front or back of the juice container will tell what percent is made from juice. Also, check the ingredient list to find juices that are made with only fruit juice, rather than corn syrup or other ingredients.
Increase calcium rich foods in your child's diet.
Many kids do not get the amount of calcium they need. Calcium can be found in dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, and foods with added calcium. Calcium is important to keep your child's bones and teeth healthy and strong. Calcium needs are highest during child and teen years, since most of the calcium that makes bones strong is added by age 17.
Offer kids options such as low-fat milk or yogurt with fruit. Be sure to look for low-fat options when buying dairy products since regular (full-fat) products, such as whole milk and cheese, are high in fat.
Serve balanced meals.
Balanced meals help your family to get the vitamins and other nutrients needed to stay healthy. Teach your child about the food pyramid using these games and tools.
Try to limit fat in your cooking, by baking, grilling or broiling foods instead of frying. Substitute high fat ingredients with low-fat alternatives.
Involve the whole family in healthy habits at snack and meal time.
Healthy habits at meal time, such as setting aside a regular time each day to eat and prepare healthy meals, will help your children develop healthy habits as they grow.
Eating regular meals can help to ensure everyone in your family is getting the nutrition they need. It will also keep you and your family from overeating. Eating meals together at home usually means a healthier meal for everyone and you get to enjoy spending time with your family.
Be a role model for your kids and eat healthy. If you eat healthy, it sends a message to your kids about how to eat right. At snack and meal time, limit low-nutrient foods, such as chips or cookies, since these foods have little nutrition and are high in calories, sugar, and fat. Replace them with a variety of fruits and vegetables as a part of snacks or meals each day. By keeping healthy foods on hand, it will be easier to offer your child healthy options.
This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in cooperation with the
Maryland Department of Human Resources and the University of Maryland. The University of Maryland Extension
will not discriminate against any person because of race, age, sex, color, sexual orientation,
physical or mental disability,
religion, ancestry or national origin, marital status, genetic information,
and gender identity or expression.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
assistance to people
with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more,
contact the Maryland Department of Human Resources at 1-800-332-6347 or apply online at www.marylandsail.org.