To ensure good nutrition for your child and that they grow up healthy, they will need to eat a large variety of foods. The amount of foods that they eat is much less important. Remember that your child's appetite may decrease and become pickier over the next few years as his/her growth rate slows. As long as they are gaining weight and have a normal activity level, then you have little to worry about. You can still offer them a variety of foods, but can decrease the serving sizes if they don't eat a lot.
It is much easier if everyone in the house follows these guidelines than if your child has to do it alone
- Limiting Television: You should limit television viewing to about one or two hours each day (this includes playing video games or using the computer). Watching television doesn't use up many calories and it encourages eating unhealthy foods and unhealthy habits. On the weekend, live life instead of watching it on TV. Find a new place to hike, go cycling, turn off the television and play card or board games or pursue other hobbies.
- Healthy Eating Habits: Your child should eat three well-balanced meals of average size each day, plus two nutritious snacks. Discourage skipping meals (especially breakfast).Snacks: You should limit snacks to two each day and they can include low-calorie foods, such as raw fruits or vegetables. Avoid using high calorie or high-fat foods for snacks, especially chips, cookies, etc. Be the sports parent who speaks up about the nutritional quality of “treats” served after games and practice. Offer to put together a list of nutritious snack and beverage choices.
- Drinking: You should encourage your child to drink six to eight glasses of water each day. Water has no calories and it will help you to feel full. Other drinks can include low fat milk, milkshakes, buttermilk, fruit juices and soups. Avoid letting your child drink regular soft drinks or canned fruit juices, as they are high in calories (150-170 calories per serving).
- Diet Journal: Help your child to keep a weekly journal of food and beverage intake and also of the amount of time that is spent watching television, playing video games and exercising. You can also record your child's weight each week (but do not weight your child every day).
- Regular Exercise: Encourage your child to play outside whenever feasible. Encourage regular exercise for 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times each week. This can include walking, jogging, swimming, bike riding, etc. It can also include playing a new sport, such as basketball, volleyball, tennis, etc.
- Special Occasions: Do not pamper the child with food with promises like 'finish homework and will get a bar of chocolate' which most of the parents do; instead offer the child your time by playing games, swimming, cycling or visiting a gallery/museum. Allow your child to have special foods or desserts only on special occasions and not on an everyday basis.
- Be Innovative: Challenge your child to create his own recipe and explain to them what nutrients are here, in which foods it will help the child to understand the nutritional value of particular food and will also help to understand the importance in the body. You can help promote good nutrition by setting a good example.
Consider these nutrient-dense foods!
- Fruits: Encourage your child to eat a variety of fresh fruits over fruit juice.
- Vegetables: Serve a variety of fresh vegetables especially dark green, red, orange vegetables, beans, and peas.
- Grains: Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, quinoa or brown rice.
- Dairy: Encourage your child to eat and drink fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages.
The key lies in maintaining a balance between trying too hard to discipline your children to eat nutritious food and sometimes letting them enjoy what they really want to eat. Keep trying new recipes, provides alternatives, 'sauce-it up' and you'll see how your kids grow to be healthy and happy!