Child Health, Family Health, Nutrition and Fitness Seth Stratton | 3 years ago

Raising a Healthy Eater

Wish your little one was hooked on fruits and veggies instead of french fries? Getting them there may seem daunting, but it’s actually doable. You can help your child build healthier eating habits. Pediatrician Ana-Maria Temple, MD, shares how.

Breakfast It’s a cliché that this is the most important meal of the day, but it’s true. A balanced breakfast will get your little one fueled up for a day of learning and fun. To start, don’t even bring sugary cereals into your home. They’re too much of a temptation, for both kids and parents. Instead, give your child a hearty breakfast that will keep them full until lunch, like oatmeal with blueberries or peanut butter toast with banana slices on top – and make sure that toast is made with whole grain bread for the ultimate power breakfast. Or make an egg and sausage casserole on Sunday and portion it out for a whole week’s worth of breakfasts. Lunch School lunches can be tricky. Packing a lunch, though time consuming, is far more nutritious than lunches provided at school. Before you pack a lunch for your child, make sure you know the classroom rules. Some schools don’t allow certain foods, like kid-favorite peanut butter, due to student allergies. If your child is a peanut butter and jelly fan, try subbing in spreads made of almonds or sunflowers. All lunches should include whole grains, fruits and veggies, and a lean protein to keep kids full. Don’t let a supermarket pack lunch for you. Pre-packaged lunches are processed concoctions that can contain more than 100 non-food ingredients per box. Instead, try a turkey wrap, with lettuce and tomato, on a whole grain tortilla with a side of fresh strawberries. And don't forget to pack some healthy snacks for morning and afternoon. Think fewer processed foods, like fruit wraps, and more whole foods, like actual fruit. And make sure you’re including the right beverage with your child’s lunch. Juice is sugar in a box and is not a substitute for real fruits and veggies, no matter what the packaging says. Reusable water bottles are a great addition to lunch bags. Dinner Kids can be picky, and it’s true – their taste buds are more sensitive than adults’. But that doesn’t mean you should cook a separate dinner of kid food. If you’re having a balanced dinner, they deserve the same. Having them at least try everything the rest of the family is eating is an all-around winning strategy. Regularly trying new foods:
  • Takes the drama out of trying new things
  • Helps kids expand their palette
  • Builds good guests who will eat whatever is served at a friend’s house
  • Means less cooking time for mom and dad
Restaurants Lots of restaurants offer a kids’ menu, but it's often home to the most unhealthy foods. Chicken nuggets, mac ’n’ cheese and french fries – staples of kids’ menus – offer little nutritional value. Instead, take a look at the restaurant’s list of sides. There you’ll often find the fruits and veggies that are missing from the kids’ menu, in the smaller portions your child needs. Or, get a regular adult meal and split it between the kids. (Hint: These are also good tips for grown-ups looking to make healthy choices at restaurants!) Dr. Temple is a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic-Blakeney.