Raising Children to Make Healthy Food Choices

Are you a parent of an infant or toddler and want to make sure that they don’t live on sugar alone? This can sometimes be a difficult thing to do, especially if they are an older toddler. Luckily for you, though, you can succeed! Here are some tips:

There are so many sugary, unhealthy snacks and drinks out there, but you are their parent and can say “Yes” or “No” to whatever you want! That’s the first thing you need to realize! As a parent, it’s your place to say “No” when your kids ask for something sweet to eat. This is the only way that you can make sure they are getting the nourishment that they need and not too much sugar. This isn’t to say that you can’t ever give your kids a fun snack, but make healthy options more readily available. If they go to daycare, ask the provider what is offered for meals and snacks. If it isn’t healthy, check around for a different provider or send your child in with their own food.

If your child is an infant and just starting to eat baby food, give them a variety of vegetables first, before trying out fruits. This will get them used to the taste and keep them from only wanting the sweet stuff. Once you are ready to introduce fruits, don’t forget about the veggies! Introduce a fruit, then once you know if they are allergic, switch to a vegetable the next time.

Another way to make sure you are giving your infant healthy food is to prepare it for them yourself. This sounds like a daunting task, but it can really be quite simple. Boil or steam vegetables until soft, then puree in a food processor until smooth enough for the child’s age. If you buy organic food, you will know that you are giving your child healthy food that also doesn’t have any pesticides or preservatives.

Toddlers are a quite different story from infants. They already have favorite foods, and have likely been given candy, cake, soda, etc. Getting toddlers to get their veggies can be tricky, but there are ways to make it fun. Most kids will like dipping their foods in something. Try Fat-Free Ranch dressing, French Onion Dip, or even peanut butter! My four-year-old son loves eating carrots dipped in Ranch. He’ll also dip raw broccoli in Ranch, or eat it cooked in Cheddar cheese sauce. I haven’t personally tried it, but I know multiple people that like to dip baby carrots in peanut butter. Since most kids love peanut butter, this could be a great option!

Cereal is a staple in most households. Limiting your kids to healthy cereals, such as Raisin Bran or the wide array of Cheerios flavors can make a big impact on how your children eat. If they are big Froot Loop fans, give Fruity Cheerios a try. They’re made with real fruit juice and healthier than the fruity alternatives.

Snacking is a part of nearly every kid’s daily routine. Keep it healthy by offering grapes, an apple with peanut butter, a banana, carrot sticks, or granola bar.

As for drinks, kids should mainly drink just milk, water, and juice. Milk should be limited to plain skim milk for toddlers, and plain whole milk for those kids 1-2 years old. If you are going to give them flavored milk, it should at least be made with sugar-free mix. I limit my son to one serving of juice a day. This limits his sugar intake and, in turn, keeps his teeth healthier. We don’t give him soda very often at all, and if we do, it’s typically Sprite/7Up. Even still, we limit the amount that he’s given. If you were to walk into my house and ask my four-year-old what he wants to drink, 9 times out of 10 he’ll reply with “Milk, please!”

Another great way to get the kids excited about what they eat is to get them involved! Let them help you cook the meals. Have them pour in ingredients, stir it up, and then explain to them how it cooks. A lot of times, if they help you make it, they’ll be excited to eat their masterpiece!

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