Make Healthy Foods a Priority
When my sons were little, I always felt as if I had a hundred things to do, and at least half of them needed to be done immediately. There were clothes to wash and fold, floors to sweep, meals to make, and phone calls to return. It was a challenge for me to put all these pressing tasks completely out of my mind at breakfast, lunch, and dinner so that I could focus my attention on preparing healthy, delicious meals. The temptation was great to call out for pizza and hot wings, but I knew that it was critical to get my kids eating right from the start.
Children need a balanced diet consisting of three meals a day and two nutritious snacks, that provides key nutrients for growth and development including:
- Protein: to build healthy muscle and tissue
- Carbohydrates: the body’s primary source of energy
- Fat: stored for energy and to transport essential fat-soluble vitamins
- Calcium: to support healthy, strong bones and teeth
- Fiber: to help keep the gastrointestinal system clean and running smoothly
Of course, I quickly learned that I could prepare the healthiest food in the world, but my kids might not eat it! That’s when I realized that eating should be fun. Kids are more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods if they’re fun and easy to eat.
If you can get your child to put her hands on his food, there’s a good chance it will end up in his mouth! Cut your child’s food into fun shapes and sizes. For example, you can cut apples into building blocks, slice celery and carrots into quarters to make logs, and cut broccoli and cauliflower florets so that they look like miniature trees.
Kids love dipping and decorating their food, and this often leads to eating! Fill a small container with yogurt or a wholesome type of salad dressing, such as one made with olive oil, and allow your child to dip away. Or fill a squirt bottle with yogurt or salad dressing and allow her to decorate her food. Nutritious food can be fun, and when it is, kids will eat it!
—Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, a mom of three and grandmom of one, coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth and The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, and a member of the PediaSure Mom Brigade.