Healthy foods give children the energy they need on a daily basis as well as the vitamins and minerals that help their bodies and minds to develop and mature. When it comes to promoting healthy eating habits among children certain foods need to be readily available in the house for quick and easy to prepare meals and snacks. These foods include:
1. Carbohydrates in the forms of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain products;
2. Healthy, naturally occurring fats in the forms of nuts, seeds, avocado and oils; and
3. Proteins in the forms of low-fat dairy products or dairy substitutes, fish, poultry and/or lean meats.
Such foods allow for endless combinations of nutrient-rich, low-calorie meals and snacks.
Healthy Meal Options for Children
Healthy, nutrient-rich meal options for children are plentiful. Since parents are more likely to prepare dinner I’ll only focus on meal options that children can prepare for breakfast and lunch.
When it comes to breakfast, carbohydrates, healthy fats and proteins can easily be combined. For example, children can eat wholegrain breakfast cereals with reduced fat milk (1% or 2%), soy or almond milk and fresh fruit (i.e. bananas, berries, apples, etc.). Another breakfast option is for children to eat wholegrain breads like wheat or rye with peanut, almond, walnut or other nut butters and a piece of fresh fruit. Yogurt is also great for a healthy, quick breakfast. Low-fat or Greek yogurt can be combined with fresh fruit and granola for added flavor. In addition, for those children who are old enough to use the stove, boiled or scrambled eggs can be prepared with olive or canola oil. Eggs can be combined with wholegrain bread, oatmeal or cereal and fresh fruit for a complete breakfast.
Lunch is another opportunity for children to combine carbohydrates, fats and proteins in a healthy way. For example, sandwiches can be made using wholegrain breads, wholegrain wraps or lettuce wraps with canned/cooked fish or poultry (i.e. tuna, salmon, chicken breast, etc.), avocado, nut butters or hummus. Vegetables and fresh fruit can also be added to sandwiches or eaten on the side for a complete meal with all essential nutrients. Some good options include romaine lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, baby carrots, celery sticks, broccoli florets, a small banana, apple wedges, orange wedges or clementines and grapes. Nuts (i.e. almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.) and seeds (i.e. pumpkin and sunflower seeds) are also great side items for lunches.
Healthy Snack Options for Children
Children can choose from numerous snack options containing essential amounts of carbohydrates, healthy fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. In terms of fruit and vegetable-based carbohydrates, some snack options for children, which I’ve already mentioned as potential side items for lunch meals, include apple wedges, orange wedges or clementine’s, grapes, a small banana, celery sticks, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and broccoli florets. When it comes to snacks with wholegrain products, children should only consume those made from 100% wholegrain including whole wheat/whole rye breads, wholegrain crackers and plain popcorn. Nuts and seeds also make great snack options for children as they are packed full of nutrients.
For added protein and healthy fat, children can experiment with different dipping options for their fruit/vegetable snacks including nut butters, low-fat regular or Greek yogurts, hummus, cottage or Neufchâtel (low-fat cream cheese) or low-calorie ranch dressing. Some of these dipping options also pair well with wholegrain breads and crackers (i.e. wholegrain bread and peanut butter sandwich, wholegrain crackers with hummus or Neufchâtel cheese, etc.). In any case, it’s important to limit portions of any of the dipping options to 2 tablespoons.
Lastly, when it comes to healthy eating habits in children, water intake throughout the day is extremely important. Young children should drink at least 32 ounces (or 4 cups) of water daily with meals and snacks while older children should drink about 8 cups.
Implementing healthy eating habits into the lifestyles of children is a sure way to get them on a path to healthy lives, but it doesn’t stop there. It is also important for children to get an adequate amount of daily physical activity for growth and development. Physical activity also reduces the risk of obesity and chronic diseases during childhood (and adulthood).
Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a physician for advice.
Before starting an exercise training program you should first make sure that exercise is safe for you. If you are under the age of 55 years and generally in good health, it is probably safe for you to exercise. However, if you are over 55 years of age and/or have any health problems, be sure to consult with your physician before starting an exercise training program.
Written by Nina Cherie Franklin