With schedules changing through the end of summer and going back to school, it's easy for us to fall out of a routine for nutrition! We may feel overwhelmed with finances, work, or other worries that distract us from enjoying healthy meals with our family. It sometimes feels simpler to let kids eat whatever they want, even though we know their growing bodies and brains need more than their regular snacks.
Note: This post is not a substitute for medical advice. Working with a registered dietitian can help create a balanced nutrition plan that is specific to a child's health needs.
Keeping healthy eating habits in place can go a long way toward supporting our kids physically, mentally, and emotionally. Eating real, plant-based food and staying hydrated can boost mood and cognition, prevent diseases like cancer and diabetes, and can teach our children to choose life-giving, long-term behaviors. Here are four ways we can encourage our kids to enjoy healthy eating today and in the future:
1. Have fun with whole grains.
Choosing whole grains for our pantry shelves can boost our kids' energy, metabolism, and digestion. Full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, whole grains come in a variety of forms, from hot and cold cereals and breads, to grains like barley, brown rice, and quinoa. Make oatmeal cookies, enjoy new toppings on toast, or mix grains into soup and stir-fry meals. Try our spiced oatmeal recipe if you're looking for a place to start!
2. Prepare meals together.
Invite kids to help prepare meals and snacks in ways that are appropriate for their age. Involving them in tasks like measuring and stirring can teach them math, fine motor skills, and coordination. If they are older, finding a safe recipe for them to follow alone or with siblings can be a fun challenge and offer you a break from cooking! Even if it's something simple like peeling the carrots, setting a timer for the oven, or setting the table, kids will learn that making meals is a team effort and not a dreaded chore. Put on music to clean up after! For a creative twist, try our sunshine plate recipe.
3. Keep fruit and veggies accessible.
Once we have our shopping list in the house, all it takes is a few minutes to organize! Rinse and cut fruit for breakfast in the morning. Stock frozen blueberries and strawberries in the freezer for an afternoon snack or smoothie recipe. Prepare small bags of cut celery, broccoli, carrots, and other raw vegetables for kids to eat with a delicious dip or dressing during the day. By preparing fresh food in advance, we make it easy for them (and us!) to grab a nutrient-rich option when hunger strikes.
4. Choose a regular time that works for you.
Every family is different. Finding time to spend together around healthy food takes creativity, commitment, and some practice. Once we have a habit that we can look forward to, it makes it easy to stick with it! Maybe you can start making brunch together on the weekends. Maybe you can plan a meal calendar and decide who helps cook on which night of the week. Maybe you can find a new farmers market and scout out some new fresh foods together! Whatever you decide to do, you'll be making memories for your kids that will last a lifetime.
What fun healthy eating habit are you going to start for your family this month?
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
CDC Childhood Nutrition Facts:
Kid's Healthy Eating Plate:
MyPlate Kids' Place:
Nemours KidsHealth website, Healthy Eating (for Parents):