Thu | Feb 2, 2023

The power of healthy eating

Published:Wednesday | January 4, 2023 | 12:34 AM

Bad habits are hard to break. However, the same holds true for good habits. When children observe and experience good habits instilled by their parents, they are more likely to stick – especially around food.

It is crucial to begin practising healthy eating habits early on in your child’s life. One of the most important conversations to have with your child is the power of healthy eating.

The Benefits of Healthy Eating

As children grow and develop, they need important nutrients to be strong and healthy. Some of the benefits of healthy eating include:

• Stable energy

• Strong bones and teeth

• Improved mental health: Makes us think clearly and be more alert

• Maintaining a healthy weight

• Preventing chronic diseases

Recommended Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh produce provides vitamins, nutrients, fibres, and minerals that are essential in keeping your child healthy. It is recommended that children consume five or more servings per day. Therefore, most of your child’s plate should be covered with colourful fruits and vegetables. The more variety of colours and nutrients you add to your meals, the better.

How to Create Healthy Mealtimes

As a parent, I know that mealtimes can sometimes seem daunting because of busy schedules and having the necessary resources. Creating and maintaining a stable routine in your diet will help you, and it will help your child look forward to mealtime. Here are ways to help create healthy mealtimes.

• Plan weekly meals together, so you can talk about healthy food options.

• Take your child to the grocery store so they can see healthy options and talk about them. Have them pick produce from each different nutrient to consume throughout the week.

• Read the labels for nutritious facts together.

• Cook meals together to show them that what they are eating matters.

• Challenge your child to fill their plate with as many different colours as they can – eat the rainbow!

• Make a contest by having your child try a new produce they have never tried before. Maybe they will end up loving it!

Sometimes the battle is making sure your child is consuming the foods they need to reap the health benefits that these foods provide. Teach your child the importance of each nutrient and in which foods it can be found. Many times, children do not want to eat something, but when it has a benefit or superpower that they can understand, they may be more willing to try.

HERE ARE A FEW HEALTHY MEAL IDEAS:

For younger children, you may have to disguise healthy items as junk food.

The magic of pasta …

Pasta should be a parent’s best friend. It’s an easy dish to prepare that does not take a lot of time, or skill. Yet it offers so much variety and choice. You can modify traditional pasta dishes to include foods that children enjoy, like bacon and turkey, eggs, cheese, salami, chicken breast, ham, beans … and you can mix it up: use different colours and lengths of pasta to create a dish that is visually interesting. Truly, pasta epitomises versatility in quick and simple dishes.

Say yes to sandwiches

Where did we get the idea that sandwiches for lunch have to be boring? Sandwiches are versatile, amazing things, and only our imagination, or lack thereof, limits us. In a child’s world, bread plus anything equals sandwich. In the adult equation, that’s pretty much true too. You can do an easy sandwich for your child’s lunch, adding ham, salami, bacon, tuna, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet peppers, onion, garlic, pepper … Or do something like a classic peanut butter and jelly. Also, toast the bread a little to give the sandwich a little flair.

So many ways to do salads

Salads is one of those dishes that you can create by just tossing together pretty much any variety of fruits and vegetables that your child enjoys. The combinations are hardly likely to be harmful. To make it interesting, try giving your child a salad in a jar for lunch – it may come across as something exotic and may even be a topic of excitement for them and their classmates.

Spaghetti and meatballs

Why? Spaghetti is fun food for kids, and really easy for parents to prepare. An additional plus for this is that you can cook in bulk and use twice for the week: for lunch one day and for dinner another. Or it can double as your lunch for one day at work too! Ensure you pack spaghetti in one container, meatballs and gravy in another.

On a roll with chicken and rolls

Give your child rolls and fried chicken. It’s not difficult to assemble, and very easy to pack without the mess that often accompanies dishes that have gravy. A bonus is that your child gets to choose his or her favourite part of the chicken to take to school for lunch, guaranteeing that he or she will like what is there – and is more likely to eat it.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com

SOURCE: Ministry of Health and Wellness; Centre for Disease Control and Prevention