How do you upgrade your child’s food, help him eat better, and be healthier? Perhaps a lofty goal in theory, but many parents want to know: How do you actually provide better food for your child?
In honor of Food Day, I have some strategies to help you better your child’s food. Scroll down to see some simple strategies you can use to upgrade your child’s food, no matter where he or she is.
Better Food At Home:
Structure mealtime and snacks
Serving meals and snacks at regular times during the day helps to shape the rhythm of eating, lending meaning and predictability to your child’s appetite.
In the end this means your child will get better food, needed nutrients, and will be less likely to ask for extras throughout the day.
Concentrate on the 5 food groups
Make fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and low fat dairy (or non-dairy alternatives), as well as healthy fats part of your balanced meal plan and daily meal routine.
Shoot for 4 to 5 food groups at mealtime and 2 to 3 food groups at snack time.
Desserts and soda are not in a food group, so add them in sparingly.
Balance the Sweets and Treats
Use the 90:10 Rule. When looking at a day’s worth of eating, let 90% of what your child eats come from the above food groups.
The other 10% can come from sweets, treats or fried foods (chips, French fries), which will shake out to about 1 to 2 of these items each day.
Choose less processed, more homemade
When you can, try to make sweet treats at home. You will automatically upgrade them because they will be made with wholesome, natural ingredients.
Offer two choices
Letting your child have a say in what’s on the menu creates a stake in the meal and a greater chance for eating.
Allow two choices and let your child determine which he prefers, such as green beans or broccoli, chicken or beef, and rice or pasta.
Don’t go too crazy with choices though—it can be overwhelming for both you and your child.
Better Food At School:
Pack lunch most days
When you send in a packed lunch, you have control over what your child is eating, including the types of food and the portion size. Want to know how to help your child eat healthy school meals? Listen in on this podcast.
Include a fruit and/or veggie
Add fruit or veggies to your child’s lunch promotes healthy eating, good nutrition and a balanced meal.
Especially during the winter when illness is more likely, fruits and veggies pack immune boosting and illness fighting nutrients.
Keep it petite
If you include a treat, which I don’t suggest doing everyday, keep it small and flavorful.
A small brownie, cookie or piece of chocolate can do the job of curbing the sweet tooth without breaking healthy eating patterns.
Guide lunch purchases
If your child buys lunch at school, make sure to run through the options and give guidance to your child so that he snags a balanced plate of food, including the food groups above.
Otherwise, he may be choosing the pasta, bread and cookie! Related: Teach and Train Your Child to Choose a Healthy Lunch
Clean up the competition
Don’t be a victim to parties, bake sales, and vending machines. You do have a say and some control!
Give your child an idea about what is okay to purchase and what is not.
Better Food On the Field:
Fruit and water
Truly, the best snack for young athletes. Ever. And all that they need for recreational sports.
Nix the sugar
Sporting fields are notorious for showcasing junky foods and sweets to young children who are trying to reap the benefits of exercise. Adopt the “keep it healthy” rule if you have an athlete—his athletic performance will thank you.
Be careful with concessions
Guide your child in her purchases, or bring your own snacks from home.
Be selective with sports drinks
Does your child needs a sports drink? Only if he is exercising continuously, for over an hour in hot, humid weather.
In most cases, water does the trick.
Better Food At Restaurants:
Forego the kid fare
Get past the chicken nuggets and French fries and order food you would make at home.
Steak, fish, salads and risotto—all fair food for kids. Yes, kids can eat what adults eat, just in smaller portions.
Step up the menu items
Try foods you might not be inclined to make at home, such as ethnic dishes, new recipes, or other interesting meals.
Eating at a restaurant is the perfect time to try these foods, and an opportunity to introduce them to your child.
Share your dinner or split dinners between siblings. Many entrees at restaurants serve more than one portion, so share to get the portions to a reasonable size.
Along the same lines, share a dessert amongst several family members, or opt for small portions.
A petite-sized dessert can fit into a healthy nutrition plan. Large portions, several time a day, will not.
How do you ensure your child eats better food?
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: October 23, 2014
Updated on: August 21, 2019