How to Teach Your Children About the Importance of Balanced Meals
Parents know how challenging it can be to get their children to eat healthy, balanced meals. Eating healthy meals is important for everyone in the family, but it is especially important for children. Children are constantly growing, and what kind of foods they eat has a large impact on their health as they grow up. It is also much better to teach children healthy eating habits when they are young. If they develop unhealthy eating habits at a young age, it is much harder for them to break that behavior when they are older.
Unfortunately for parents, many children are naturally drawn towards unhealthy foods, especially sugary foods. Getting children to eat their fruits and vegetables may be a challenge, but it is something that is very important and will have a serious impact on their health as they develop. There are techniques that parents can try with their children to help them ease into eating well balanced meals in Virginia.
Understanding How to Create a Balanced Meal
Before parents can begin to educate their children about making balanced meals, they must first understand what exactly constitutes a well-balanced meal. Children are encouraged to have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. These servings can consist of either fresh, frozen or canned fruits or vegetables.
For children that do not enjoy fruits and vegetables on their own, parents should try mixing the food into other dishes. For example, parents can add cucumbers to a sandwich, or they can mix peas and corn into rice meals. Parents that are struggling to get kids to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables should try using fruit and carrot sticks as healthy snack alternatives.
Whenever possible, you should use low or non-fat milk, cheese and yogurt. Parents should also prioritize lean cuts of meat, as well as baking or grilling foods versus frying them. When selecting juice for your children, aim for brands that contain 100 percent juice and do not have added sugar. Parents should also be mindful of any added sugar in breakfast cereals.
Finally, parents should be mindful of portion sizes for their children. Younger children should not have the same portion size as adults. A good rule of thumb is that a proper portion size for a child is equal to the size of the child’s fist. For some children, it helps to see their parent eating the same sized portions as they are. Adults can serve themselves smaller portions if they want to have their child feel more comfortable with the meal sizes, but they should make sure to eat extra portions, since it is just as important for adults to eat healthy as it is for their children.
Getting Children Involved in the Meals
Younger children are often very impressionable, and will try and emulate the behavior of their parents. Parents are strongly encouraged to include their child in meal planning at home. Parents should do their best to explain why food is healthy, even if they use incredibly simplistic terms. Sometimes, all it takes is telling a child that eating fruits and vegetables will make them strong. Parents should bring their child grocery shopping whenever possible, and cook food with them present. When possible, parents can assign their children basic tasks to help with meal preparation. Parents can also make healthy snacks with their children, such as frozen yogurt popsicles or fruit parfaits.
Depending on where they live, parents may also be able to take their children to areas where food is grown. Some farms in the area are willing to give tours to families, or have various activities available, such as picking apples or berries. Both of these are good options for getting children more involved in their food, and encourages them to enjoy the healthy food that they harvested. Another option for parents is to start a garden with their children. Parents can help their child grow various healthy foods, such as tomatoes or melons.
Provide Freedom of Choice
One of the biggest challenges with teaching balanced meals comes from children that are picky eaters. Parents should never force their child to eat something that he or she does not enjoy. At the same time, parents should not be expected to create custom meals for each family member. Instead, parents are encouraged to set up meals that provide multiple options for everyone in the house. For example, parents can set out a base meal, such as rice or pasta, and then have different options set up to fill out the meal.
In some situations, children are particularly picky about what foods they consume, but they are more accepting of their beverages. Children are encouraged to have five servings of fruit and vegetables, but these servings do not always have to come from solid foods. Smoothies and mixed fruit drinks are very easy for parents to make for their child. In addition, parents that make these healthy drinks do not have to worry about picking out healthy juice, which is much harder than many parents initially believe.
Do Not Remove Treats
It is important to remember that a well-balanced meal can still include the occasional sweet treat. It is okay for children to eat foods like ice cream, candies and cookies, as long as they are served in moderation. One tip for parents is to make healthy snack foods available at all times, but have children ask permission for sugary treats.