Monday, August 17, 2015

Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits with Small Children

How do you ensure that your child has a healthy diet?

Isn't that the question of the century for parents of small children?  No matter how wonderful of an eater your child might be, ensuring that they have a nutritious, balanced diet is always a struggle.  It can be so easy to fall into the junk food trap with a toddler or preschooler... we've all been there.

Sadly, the average American diet does not include the recommended amount of essential nutrients.

These include...

...Omega-3 Fatty acids (including DHA and EPA), which are crucial for brain and eye development;
...Vitamin D, which regulates calcium metabolism and bone health;
...Lutein & Zeaxanthin, which support healthy eye and vision function;
...and Vitamins E, C, and A, which support healthy hearts, vision, and immune function.

The 1,000 days between the beginning of a woman's pregnancy and a child's 2nd birthday are so important in establishing healthy habits and instilling a balanced diet that can follow a child for the rest of his/her life.  Below, I've listed a few ways we're working to establish a lifelong relationship with healthy food in our family!

-Serve a colorful plate.  Make sure there are lots of different foods on each plate you serve to your children.  I love to offer Emmie a variety of colorful fruits, veggies, and grains... not only do the colors keep her interested, but adding unique flavors means she rarely gets bored with her meals. Another added bonus: adding a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables ensures she is getting a great source of Lutein & Zeaxanthin, which promote healthy eye function!

-Make healthy options plentiful and junky options scarce.  I make it a habit each and every week to buy 3 different kinds of fruits for Emmie.  She typically requests a fruit with each meal; by having a variety, she stays interested and gets a great variety of essential nutrients.  I also rarely make "empty calorie" kind of foods an option.  Milk, in particular, is an important part of each of Emmie's meals.  She will rarely get juice or a sugary drink with her meal.  By making it non-negotiable, you take the drama out of mealtime options!

-Involve your kids in shopping for and preparing food.  As much as possible, I try to include Emmie in the process of choosing her (healthy) food options for the week.  If she's not going with me to the store, I at least ask her what options she'd like to see.  Also,  I've mentioned many times before how much I love involving Emmie in the kitchen.  She loves cooking!  I've found that she takes a lot more interest in the healthy aspects of meals if she had a part in preparing it.

-Get creative with ingredients. I am incredibly lucky to have a child that loves fruits.  Veggies, however, can be a little bit more of a challenge.  I learned early on that the best way to incorporate veggies into her diet was to sneak them in.  No shame in that.  I include veggies in casseroles, sandwiches, and even pizzas.  She's grown to love lots of veggies without even realizing it!

-Put the ball in their court. Dinners around here are pretty non-negotiable... what you're served around here is what you get.  I established a long time ago that I am not a short order cook.  However, we typically just do a sandwich, wrap, or finger foods for lunch, so I really like to involve Emmie in making healthy choices.  I usually let her choose 2 fruits and what she'd like for her "main course" (a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread is her go-to).

-Practice what you preach. This one is a toughie.  You can't expect your child to show healthy habits when you're not doing the same.  I stick to healthy, wholesome options when eating around Emmie.  I also like to express my love for healthy foods often.  Model, model, model!

Of course, when in doubt, vitamin supplements are an excellent option for ensuring children are getting their recommended daily essential nutrient intake.  If you’re looking for ways to help your child get the nutrients he/she needs, like DHA Omega-3, consider products like Horizon Milk with Omega-3.

For more information about incorporating essential vitamins and nutrients into your child's diet, visit the Vitamins in Motion website!

This post includes my own personal opinions, and should not be taken as medical advice.