Teach children about choosing the right food

Help them create their own healthy eating habits.

April 27, 2018 - Author: Sarah Sleziak Johnson, Michigan State University Extension

As adults, we get to choose if we are going to eat a candy bar or have an apple. If we guide children to make good choices, most of the time, it will encourage them to create their own healthy eating habits. Michigan State University Extension believes it is important for children to have choices when it comes to food.

How do we guide kids to understand food choices? We help by making smoothies or trail mixes, for example, that include kid-friendly veggies and fruits. We also need to be a healthy role model for children. We can go shopping with children and let them choose healthy foods they’d like to eat. We can get creative in the kitchen and get kids involved with helping prepare meals or shopping lists. Talk to kids about making nutritious choices.

Fuel Up to Play 60 recommends a focus on eating nutrient-rich foods, not what NOT to eat. According to extension.org nutrient-rich food includes most fruits and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, lean meats, legumes, and whole grains. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests in Tips for Choosing a Nutrient-Rich Diet making choices from the following list.

  • Brightly colored fruits and 100 percent fruit juices
  • Vibrant colored vegetables including potatoes
  • Whole-grain, fortified and fiber-rich grain foods
  • Low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts

Choosing to eat healthy, nutrient-rich foods is even difficult for adults sometimes. However, helping children develop healthy habits with food early, can make choices easier for the whole family. A take-out cheese pizza may make dinner easy on a busy school night. Offering raw vegetables and a small bowl of fruit as choices with the pizza allows a child to make the meal healthier. Guidance towards the incorporation of nutrient-rich foods into daily meals can create healthy habits to last a lifetime.

Tags: early childhood development, family, food & health, msu extension, nutrition, physical development and health

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