Proper nutrition during childhood can help set your kids on a course for living long and healthy lives. As the National Institutes of Health resource MedlinePlus notes, "A healthy diet helps children grow and learn. It also helps prevent obesity and weight-related diseases, such as diabetes." So instead of providing subtle encouragement, take an active role in ensuring that your kids eat nutritious foods on a regular basis.
At the Grocery Store
Unlike adults, kids do not control what food fill the cupboards and refrigerator. To ensure that kids have access to healthy choices, carefully consider the foods you throw into the cart while perusing the grocery store aisles. Avoid processed meals and pre-cooked fried foods from the frozen food section and -- as alternatives -- select fresh produce and fresh lean meats. Instead of boxes of macaroni and cheese, choose whole-grain pastas.
It is no secret that many children love fast food restaurants, especially those that include toys with their kids' meals. However, as healthfinder.gov says, fast foods are typically high in calories, sugar, fat and sodium and are low in needed nutrients. Cooking more meals at home will help your kids get more of the nutrients they need because you can control everything that goes in them. For best results, avoid unhealthy cooking methods such as deep-frying, which add unnecessary calories. Instead, stick with healthier cooking methods, like baking, grilling and steaming. If you want to saute foods in a pan, choose extra virgin olive oil over less-healthy cooking oils, like palm oil or animal fat. If you're worried that cooking healthy will sacrifice taste, incorporate zesty seasonings to give your food a flavor boost.
Kids can go through stages of being notoriously picky eaters, which is why some parents might fear that cooking healthy meals at home could lead to kids throwing down their forks in defiance. Fortunately, there are some sneaky ways that you can incorporate nutritious, vitamin-packed foods into your child's favorite meals. For example, the next time you serve whole-wheat spaghetti with tomato sauce, chop up some green peppers and broccoli into unrecognizable bits and mix them in. When serving soups and casseroles, grate in some carrots and zucchini.
Forcing your kids to munch on carrot sticks may not be the best approach to introducing healthy foods. So instead, come up with healthy snacks that are also fun. As an example, you can make "snack kabobs" by threading tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and sliced red bell peppers onto pretzel sticks and serving with a flavorful dip, such as ranch dressing. Alternatively, you can make "ants on a log" by coating celery stalks with peanut butter and topping the peanut butter with raisins.
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