What constitutes a balanced diet for children? How much of everything do they need to eat? What if they don’t get enough something? All questions that many parents find themselves fretting over. The key to providing your child a balanced diet is first and foremost for parents not to stress. Stressing over food can be transferred to the child, resulting in resistance, or a negative relationship with food.
So, take it easy, do your best, and if your child refuses one food or another, no big deal. Tomorrow is another day.
Here are a few key things you need to know:
- Food from all 5 food groups make up a balanced diet. The 5 food groups are: Bread & Cereals, Fruit & Vegetables, Milk & Milk Alternatives, Meat & Legumes, Fat & Oils.
- Children generally need 3 meals a day and 1 to 3 snacks a day.
- Strive to serve your kids fresh, unprocessed foods like fresh fruit & vegetables, home-cooked meals, and whole grains.
Raising a Good Eater
- Don’t stress if your child refuses a particular food, try to refrain from giving them something else, and they will eat better at the next meal or snack.
- If you’re child’s weight and size is on track, then don’t worry too much that your child isn’t eating enough.
- Don’t force a child to “finish the plate” if they say they are full. You can try once or twice but if they insist then let it go. This way you are teaching your child to listen to their body. Forcing them to eat when they are full will sever that connection between brain and stomach and may lead to unhealthy eating habits in the future.
- Offer your child a wide variety from all 5 food groups during their meals and snacks.
- Children’s appetites may change from day to day or from meal to meal. Eating small amounts, often, throughout the day works best for their small stomachs.
- Make sure not to have processed, unhealthy foods such as those high in fat, sugar and salt available in the house and expect your little ones to resist them. Out of sight, out of mind.
After all is said and done, leading by example may be a great way to teach your kids to eat a variety of foods from all food groups. Show them how healthy eaters choose their food, kids learn mostly by copying and not by being told.