Eat It

Raising Healthy Eaters

by Theresa Hoyles, Registered Dietitian and mother of two

What to eat, when to eat and how to eat are the key ingredients for raising healthy eaters. As a mom, I understand the challenges associated with raising healthy eaters, so I hope you find these tips helpful.

What to Eat: Local, Seasonal, and Whole Foods

  • Fresh, whole food is best. Buying foods in their natural state and cooking from scratch provides more nutrients and less unnecessary sodium (salt), sugar, additives and dyes.
    • For example, instant apple and cinnamon oatmeal contains added sugar and minimal fruit. Instead, cook oats from scratch (or even in the microwave) and add a cut up fresh apple!
  • Provide foods from all food groups at most meals. Aim to serve ½ of the plate as fruits and vegetables, ¼ of the plate protein and ¼ of the plate grains. Visit the website for detailed information.
  • A fun way to ensure you are getting foods from all groups is to use a portion plate. (see graphic)
  • Serve water and/or milk with meals and snacks. Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, sports drinks and fruit drinks should be limited to ensure the health of children and adolescents.

When to Eat:

  • Enjoy sitting down together for family meals (with the TV and screens off). Studies show sit-down family meals usually provide more fruits and veggies, leaner proteins and more vitamins and minerals.
  • Schedule times for sit-down snacks instead of allowing your child to graze on food all day. This helps ensure your child comes to the table hungry enough to eat a nutritious meal.

How to Eat:

  • The people caring for children are responsible for determining what, where and when to eat.
  • Remember that the child decides if and how much they’ll eat. (Provide at least one highly nutritious food that you trust your child will enjoy.)
  • Model healthy eating! If your child sees you eating chips and drinking soda, that’s what they’ll want to eat, too.
  • Have the majority of foods you keep in the house be healthy foods.
    • For example, in the snack cupboard keep whole grain crackers, popcorn, peanuts, and dried fruit with no sugar added instead of cookies, snack cakes, toaster pastries, or chips.
  • Eat most of your meals at home and keep restaurant and fast foods to a minimum.
  • Most important, have fun with your children in the kitchen. Get them involved in the meal planning and preparation.

Family Recipes

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