Every parent is responsible for ensuring their child eats healthy foods every day. The CDC has reported that healthy eating is vital for proper growth and development. A healthy diet provides your child with adequate nutrients to maintain a healthy weight and avoid diseases like obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic health conditions as they grow into adulthood. Nutritious meals are also vital in keeping a child physically active and attentive in class. However, in an era where takeout foods are increasingly popular, how do you ensure your child eats healthy? In this article, we explore tips to encourage healthy eating habits for preschoolers.
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Variety Matters When Feeding Preschoolers
Young children are picky eaters, but you can overcome this challenge by providing your kids with a wide variety of healthy foods. According to Mayo Clinic, foods for kids contain the same nutrients adults need to stay healthy. These nutrients are vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and fats. To ensure your child eats enough nutrients, consider the following foods.
- Proteins like seafood, eggs, beans, soy products, peas, lean meat, eggs, and unsalted nuts.
- Variety of fresh, canned, dried, and cooked vegetables and fruits.
- Grains like oatmeal, brown or wild rice, whole-wheat bread, corn, barley, and quinoa.
- Dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and milk.
These foods have numerous benefits in your child’s body. For instance, eating proteins fuels muscle growth and development, while whole grains give young children energy to grow and learn. On the other hand, nutrients found in fruits and veggies protect your child from diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes later in life.
Involve Kids in Meal Preparation
Kids really appreciate it when we listen to their thoughts and feelings about what they’re up to. Letting them make choices can boost their confidence and independence. Why not get them involved in meal planning? It’s a fun way to let them have a say in what they eat. Start by taking them to the grocery store and give them simple choices. For example, ask them if they prefer white or red onions and allow them to pick their favorites. Next, ask your children to choose which foods to prepare for dinner. Besides choosing food, give children small tasks like washing fruits or veggies, mixing ingredients, and reading labels on food items. The pride they get from helping pick and prepare a meal increases their morale to eat.
Keep Healthy Snacks in Plain Sight
Making healthy snacks readily available is one of the best ways to instill healthy eating habits in preschoolers. Keep plenty of fruit, vegetables, and healthy drinks like plain milk, yogurt, fresh fruit juice, and water within reach. When you have a variety of fruits and drinks on the countertop or kid-height shelf in the pantry, kids avoid soda, cookies, and other sugary treats linked to common childhood dental problems like bad breath and tooth decay.
Make Healthy Eating Habits Fun
As a parent, you can help your child maintain a healthy relationship with food by making mealtime fun. For starters, pair sweet, nutritious meals with memories. For example, you could try vegetables on pizza nights or sweet potato chips on family walks. If your children don’t like veggies or fruits, experiment with dips, sauces, and condiments. You’ll be surprised to see them eat carrots or other veggies covered in ketchup, hummus, salsa, or yogurt. You could also explore recipes made of nut flour, fruit pies, or dipping fruits in dark chocolate.
Cook One Meal for the Family
Children mimic what their parents do, including food choices. Instead of preparing one meal for adults and another for children, cook one for everyone. Then serve it family-style, so your kids pick what they want to eat. Serving food this way also encourages kids to be adventurous with different foods. Ideally, when your children see you and other family members eat healthy foods, they’ll want to do the same.
Guiding a preschooler’s eating habits can be challenging. As a parent, you want to encourage your child to make healthy food choices without nagging. You can achieve this goal by serving a variety of nutritious foods. Make it a habit to prepare balanced meals filled with proteins, veggies, fats, whole grains, and fruits. Also, get your child involved in the kitchen, make mealtime enjoyable for the entire family, and keep healthy treats within reach.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.