Balanced nutrition is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle for kids and their parents. Unfortunately, TV and other kid-focused mass media are filled with mixed messages about good nutrition that can oppose what parents often try to instill at home. Nevertheless, taking simple steps towards preparing healthy meals for your children can go a long way for their health in the future.
For starters, balanced meals should be based upon whole, unprocessed foods. This means that the foods you buy and prepare should resemble the way in which they were grown and harvested as much as possible. Well-balanced, whole food based meals include whole grains, good sources of proteins such as those from legumes, fish, meat and dairy, and a “rainbow” of colorful vegetables and fruits, which are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, as well as adequate fluids, such as still or sparkling water or flavored sparkling drinks to keep you hydrated between meals.
But meals are not just about eating—preparing meals can be a great experience for parents and kids, too. Children can get involved with food preparation and cooking, making them active participants in the meals the family will eat, while exposing them to whole foods in various stages of preparation – a great way to get them more excited about eating healthy. Parents’ can play an authoritative role in the process, selecting the healthy foods which will appear on the table so kids can enjoy the freedom to choose what they like from the healthy selections. Older babies can also enjoy many of the same foods at family meals if small portions of whole foods are set aside and pureed for them before meals.
Even desserts can be a healthy part of a balanced diet when prepared with moderate amounts of natural sweeteners such as fruits, maple syrup and honey and enjoyed in moderation. Remember we eat both for nourishment as well as pleasure – so enjoy!
Finally, one of the greatest benefits of eating as a family is the great opportunity for parents to model healthy eating as fun, a positive experience that kids will take with them for years to come.