Healthy Food for Kids Are your kids addicted to junk food? With these simple tips, you can get kids to eat right without turning mealtime into a war zone.
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Peer pressure and TV commercials for junk food can make it hard to get your kids to eat well. Factor in your own busy schedule, and it’s no wonder that many children’s diets are built around convenience and take-out foods. But a healthy diet can have a big impact on your child’s health, helping them maintain a healthy weight, stabilize their mood, sharpen their thinking, and prevent a variety of health problems. A healthy diet can also have a big impact on your child’s mental and emotional health, helping to prevent conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and ADHD.
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A good diet supports healthy growth as a child and adult, and may even help reduce the risk of suicide. If your child has already been diagnosed with a mental health problem, healthy eating can help them manage their symptoms and help them recover.
It’s important to remember that your children will not be born with a craving for french fries and pizza and an aversion to broccoli and carrots. This happens over time as they are exposed to more and more unhealthy food choices. However, it is possible to reprogram your children’s food preferences so that they prefer healthy foods.
The earlier you introduce healthy, nutritious options to children’s diets, the easier it will be for them to develop a healthy relationship with food. And it can be easier and more time-consuming than you think. With these tips, you can foster healthy eating habits without turning mealtime into a war zone and give your kids the best chance to grow into healthy, balanced adults.
Whether babies or teenagers, children develop a natural preference for their favorite foods. To encourage healthy eating habits, the challenge is to make nutritional choices attractive.
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Focus on overall nutrition rather than specific foods. Children should eat more whole, minimally processed foods – foods that are closer to their natural form, and less packaged and processed foods.
Be a role model, the impulse to imitate is strong in childhood, so don’t ask your child to eat vegetables when they are fed potato chips.
Change the taste of healthy foods. Add vegetables to beef stew, or stir-fry potatoes with carrots, or add a sweet dip to apple slices.
Cook more meals at home. Restaurants and take-out are high in sugar and unhealthy fats, so cooking at home can have a big impact on your children’s health. If you make a large batch, you can make several meals and feed your family for a week.
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Take the kids grocery shopping and meal prep. You can teach them different foods and how to read food labels.
Prepare healthy meals. Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy drinks (water, milk, pure fruit juice) so kids avoid unhealthy foods like junk food, chips, and cookies.
Limited part. Never ask your child to clean their plate, and never use food as a reward or bribe.
Children who enjoy breakfast every day have better memories, more stable moods and energy, and score higher on tests. Eating breakfast with high-quality protein – whole grains, yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs, meat or fish – can help even teenagers lose weight.
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Sitting down as a family to eat a home-cooked meal not only sets a good example for children about the importance of healthy meals, but also brings the family together – even lively teenagers love to eat delicious, home-cooked meals!
Regular family meals provide comfort. Knowing that the whole family eats dinner (or breakfast) together at the same time every day is very comforting for children and improves their appetite.
Family meals provide an opportunity to catch up on your children’s daily lives. Gathering the family around the dinner table is an ideal opportunity to talk and listen to your children without the distraction of the TV, phone or computer.
Social interaction is very important for your child. The simple act of talking to parents over the dinner table can go a long way in relieving stress and boosting your child’s mood and self-confidence. It also provides an opportunity to identify problems in your child’s life and deal with them early.
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Eating teaches you to “learn by example.” Eating together lets your kids watch you eat healthy food while controlling your portions and limiting junk food. Avoid excessive calorie counting or judging your own weight, so your kids don’t develop a negative relationship with food.
This dish can monitor your children’s eating habits. This can be important for older children and teenagers who spend a lot of time at school or at friends’ houses. If your teen’s choices are unhealthy, the best way to make changes is to highlight the short-term consequences of poor nutrition, such as physical appearance or athletic performance. These are more important than long-term health for teenagers. For example, “Calcium helps you grow taller” or “Iron helps you do better on tests.”
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Simple or refined carbohydrates are sugars and refined grains that have all the bran, fiber, and nutrients—white bread, pizza dough, pasta, cookies, white flour, white rice, and many breakfast cereals. They can cause high blood sugar and dangerous mood and energy fluctuations. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are generally high in nutrients and fiber, digest slowly, and provide long-lasting energy. They include whole-wheat or multipurpose bread, high-fiber whole grains, brown rice, beans, nuts, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables.
Children’s bodies get all the sugar they need from food. Added sugar means lots of empty calories that increase the risk of hyperactivity, mood disorders, and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even teen suicide.
The American Heart Association recommends that children limit sugar intake to 3 teaspoons (12 grams) per day. A 12-ounce serving contains 10 teaspoons or 40g of added sugar, a shake and a sweetened coffee drink. Large amounts of sugar can also be hidden in foods such as bread, canned soups and vegetables, frozen meals and fast food. In fact, about 75% of packaged foods in the United States contain added sugar.
Don’t completely cut out sweets. Having a no-candy rule is an invitation to indulge and overindulge when you get the chance.
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Avoid sugary drinks. Instead, try adding a splash of fruit juice and sparkling water or mixing whole milk with a banana or fruit for a delicious smoothie.
Create your own popsicles and frozen treats. Freeze 100% fruit juice in an ice cube tray with a plastic spoon. Or make frozen fruit smoothies with pineapple chunks, bananas, grapes, and berries.
Fast food is usually high in sugar, unhealthy fats and calories, and low in nutrition. Still, junk food is tempting to kids, so instead of eliminating it altogether, try to limit the amount of time your kids eat fast food and make the healthiest choices possible when they do.
Check the portion size. Stick to the child menu or go to the smallest size. Order pizza by the slice – it’ll satisfy your kid’s cravings without trying to stay overnight.
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Order children’s meals with spare parts. Children often prefer baby food to toys. Ask for healthy options to replace the soda and fries.
Instead of a big plate of macaroni and cheese, opt for chicken and veggies at a sit-down restaurant.
Be smart about pages. Sides that can add calories include French fries, chips, rice, fries, onion rings, and cookies. Better yet, steamed vegetables, a side salad, baked potatoes, corn or applesauce.
Children need healthy fats in their diet. Healthy fats help kids feel full (and stay full), focus better, and improve mood.
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Saturated fats from olive oil, avocados, nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts and pecans) and seeds (such as pumpkin, sesame).
High amounts of saturated fat, including omega-3 fatty acids, are found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines, or in flaxseeds and walnuts.
The oils found in vegetable shortening, some seafood, crackers, candies, cookies, snacks, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods are “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oils (even if they call them fat free). Any amount of oil is not safe.
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