By Carlie Saint-Laurent Beaucejour, MS, RD, LDN
August is national “kids eat right’ month. This is the sixth year the nutrition community is celebrating this occasion. This is a great time to evaluate not only your child’s nutrition as the new school year is swiftly approaching but your family’s as well. Here are five strategies to help your kid eat and live nutritiously.
1) Get kids involved in the kitchen
Cooking is an essential skill to fuel your body and there’s no better time to start learning how to cook as early as possible. You can get them involved in the preparation process by:
· Taking them grocery shopping
· Assisting in doing an inventory of what foods are already in your pantry
· Aid in creating the grocery list and checking it off
The more kids see how foods are cooked and where they come from, the more likely they will eat them. Who knows maybe your child could be the next Top Chef, kids’ edition?
The infographic below demonstrates age-appropriate ways your little chef can help out in the kitchen:
2) Incorporate daily physical activity
It is recommended for kids (between the ages of 6-17) to get at least 60 minutes a day of physical activity. Physical activity promotes healthy weight, bones, mood and importantly helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Whether it is playing on a sports team, joining the gym, or taking a family walk, help your child to find movement they enjoy. Also reducing the amount of screen time to less than 2 hours a day to can help encourage movement.
3) Be a good role model
When it comes to healthy eating, positive self-image, and living an active lifestyle, children need people to look up to and the most effective examples are their caregivers, who they trust and see on a daily basis. What a parent eats and drinks the child will emulate those same behaviors.
4) Don’t give up
According to pediatric research 20% of children between age 2 to 6 are selective eaters. This phase is usually transient so do your best to just observe rather than acknowledge their behavior and take note when it can have serious impact on your child’s weight, digestion, and overall health. One study found parents who identified their kids as a picky eater resulted in the child to actually being a picky eater. The more you force your picky eater to eat the more likely they are going to resist, so be careful with your approach.
Expose your kids, especially toddlers, to a variety of, tastes textures, shapes, and colors as earlier as possible and the more food options they will like. It can take up to 10 times or more to taste a certain food until your child may actually like it, so don’t give up. Consult with a dietitian to help ensure your child is getting the proper nutrition they need to grow into healthy adults.
5) Practice food safety
Healthy behaviors begin at home so remember to encourage your kids to wash their hands before preparing or eating and afterwards as well, to prevent the spread of germs. According to a USDA study 97% of consumers neglect to wash their hands. Although washing hands is a simple task it is one of the most effective actions to reduce the spread of germs and food-related illnesses. Other food safety practices to encourage is proper thawing, cutting, and cooking at safe temperatures, when age-appropriate.
What are some ways you ensure your “kid eats right”?
American Heart Association. (2018). How can I help my child be more physically active? Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-children
Esther Ellis. (2019). A rise in food recalls: More contaminants or a better detection process? Food and Nutrition.