Include these five healthful habits into your daily schedule and make good nutrition easier. These five tips will increase your child’s intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, while lowering overall intake of sugar. Regularity will help create habits, and creating healthy habits now will follow your children wherever they go later.
1. ALWAYS include a fruit at breakfast, a fruit AND a vegetable at lunch, and a vegetable at dinner. Just do it: the goal is five fruits and vegetables per day for everyone. Even a small portion of fruits or vegetables allows them to see this is an essential part of each meal. Have patience; exposure is important (even if your child declines a vegetable over and over again) and will help create a habit.
2. Offer water often, water down juices half and half, and offer calcium rich beverages such as organic milk, organic soymilk, and calcium fortified juices. Children, depending on age, require between 700 mg – 1300 mg of calcium daily, experts say. Calcium fortified beverages can help them meet their needs and replace non-nutritive, high-sugar beverages. Typically children are getting way too much sugar with beverages and little actual nutrition. Make everything count!
3. Always have fresh fruits and vegetables at home. You and your children will see them daily, and eat them daily. Add extra cooked veggies (greens, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, etc.) to cooked dishes such as lasagna sauce, stews, soups, casseroles, and pasta and rice dishes. You would be amazed how greens such as kale, beet greens, spinach, and collards cook down and get hidden in sauces and casseroles.
4. A homemade smoothie is a fabulous way to get lots of fruits and vegetables in.
A great and TASTY recipe: ½ cup frozen berries, ½ -1 banana, 1-2 scoops protein powder, 1 tbsp flax meal, ½ cup fresh kale or spinach (I promise you will not taste it!!), and either ½ cup juice, milk, or yogurt (each will provide different flavor and texture). Add water if needed to thin. POW! -- Tons of nutrition in one cup! Great as breakfast on the go or as an after school snack.
5. Talk to your kids about food a bit and help them understand where it comes from and what it does for them and their body. We have all heard this before: Good food helps you grow up big and strong. Well, it’s completely true! Discuss this, and include your child in shopping for and choosing fruits and vegetables. Encourage a rainbow of foods in your diet.
Creating regular, healthy habits in your routine can take some stress off of general meal planning. Providing well balanced meals not only promotes healthy growth patterns but also helps a child feel strong and steady throughout the day while minimizing the highs and lows of sugar rushes and mood swings. It’s good for you and your family. Remember, your child’s biggest influence right now is you, so eat your fruits and vegetables!