Healthy Eating for Kids

by Elisa Olivier-Nielsen, MA, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, EON Consulting

With the holiday season approaching, it is important to keep healthful foods around to offer to our children.

It is a known fact that school-aged children may not eat enough of the recommended amounts of certain food groups, which may lead to nutrient deficiencies, delayed growth, impaired learning and negatively impacting their participation in regular physical activity or sports.

As parents or caregivers, we can start by having positive conversations around foods such as discussing nutritional benefits and the various colors, shapes, textures and flavors to entice our children’s curiosity around foods.

Depending on the age of the child, they can be invited to shop with us, read food labels, give input on family meals and even cook with us.

Certain children can be picky eaters. So, by identifying which meal is preferred and asking for specific input can go a long way into solving frustrating family meal dynamics while increasing the variety of the foods a child is willing to eat.

Having at least one family meal together every day will further foster communication, family bonding and increase the nutrients a child will eat from the various foods made available and eaten together as a family as their role model.

When promoting healthy eating habits, the recommendation is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, choose lean protein foods, and make at least half the grains your family eats whole grains (quinoa, brown or wild rice, whole wheat pasta, etc.).

For snacks, healthier options include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and calcium-rich foods (such as milk and yogurt).

The holiday season can be as healthy as you make it to be. Some tips include:

1. Replacing traditional sweets with fruits.

2. Modifying rich dishes to include more vegetables, whole grains and lean meats.

3. Offering a wider selection of vegetables as side dishes.

4. Introducing healthier versions of traditional holiday desserts.

5. Emphasizing ongoing or even increased physical activity during this time with the participation of the entire family!