Teaching your kids good health habits will help guide them to being healthy adults. Nutritious eating habits, daily movement, and key nutrients are fundamental elements to creating a healthy foundation for wellness. Unfortunately, many kids are consuming unhealthy diets and are becoming less active. In fact, research has found that despite programs geared to improving children’s eating, Australian children are not eating according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines.1 How can families support the health and well-being of their children with nutrition? Let’s look at ways we can encourage healthy eating for a healthier future.
Family members influence eating choices and patterns for young children. For example, parents create early experiences with food and eating, and their own eating behaviours and food choices can influence those of their children.3 As role models, it’s important to advocate for nutrition plans that provide high nutritional quality. Families should limit consumption of unhealthy fats, excess salt, sugar, and sports drinks. Instead, they should consume many different nutritious foods such as 4:
Work as a family to identify which foods you should reduce and which ones you should increase. Be creative when trying to add new foods. For example, include chia seeds in homemade muffins, add apple sauce to meatballs, or use puréed pumpkin in homemade waffles. You can also look for different recipes that will encourage everyone to increase their intake of healthier foods.
You will be on your way to raising healthier kids by making healthy choices at the grocery store. Before shopping, create a list of items to help you stay on track. If time permits, shop a few times per week, buying only what you need to maximise the nutrient value in your fresh produce. As mentioned, it’s important to eat a variety of nutritious foods, so focus on buying your favourite fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins, and then pop into the aisles to stock your pantry with staples such as whole grain cereals and pasta, nuts and seeds, dried herbs, and healthy oils. Finally, avoid making unhealthy food purchases – remember, “out of sight, out of mind”!
Picky eating is common among some children and can lead to family stress and parental frustration.5 There are many reasons why a child may be a fussy eater, such as age, personality, or media and peer influence.5 As a parent, it’s important to stay calm and not give up. Continue to introduce new foods and give children the opportunity to try them. If they are not ready don’t force them, but also don’t give up – find another time to try again.
It’s important to be aware that fussy eaters have lower intakes of important nutrients such as vitamin E, vitamin C, folate, and fibre.5 You can help fill nutritional gaps by using a multivitamin-mineral formula designed especially for children. These supplements provide a broad spectrum of nutrients needed for healthy growth and development and immune support.
Promote healthy eating in your kids by providing them with nutritious food options, being a role model for healthy eating, and being patient as they navigate through their food likes and dislikes. Eating together as a family, keeping consistent meal and snack times, and getting your children involved in meal preparation are other ways to support healthy nutrition.
*References available on request