The childhood years are packed with learning on many levels. Not only is the body growing and developing in different ways, but lifestyle habits are also being formed. Providing health education to youngsters creates a wonderful opportunity for them to learn about their bodies and how to feel their best at an early age, and also builds knowledge and patterns that create long-term wellness.
Nutrition plays a central role in health and wellness.
Teaching kids how to eat a healthy diet helps improve their nutrient intake along with empowering them to make their own healthy food choices.
Some key points to focus on include:
- Eating a variety of fresh colorful vegetables and fruit, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that benefit overall health. Food variation also expands the palate and helps taste buds adapt to different flavors.
- Limiting consumption of refined sugar and white flour, which are essentially void of nutritional value and have a negative impact on the body. It’s nice to indulge in treats on occasion, but this is best avoided as a daily habit. Sugary snacks have a detrimental effect on focus and concentration and are best consumed after a meal containing protein, which buffers against the effects of sugar on the body.
- Including protein with each meal to keep blood sugar balanced throughout the day. Examples of quality proteins include chicken, turkey, fish, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and nut butters.
- Strategies for resistance around eating healthy foods can involve encouragement on trying new items (yes, even a lick counts), education on the benefits of certain foods, and improving the overall relationship with food. It can be helpful to take kids to the grocery store and have them choose their next new vegetable, or even help grow some of their own food in a garden. Vegetables can be much more appetizing after being personally cared for and watched grow.
- Emphasizing healthy snacks, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The best snacks are high in protein and low in sugar.
- Teaching kids to pack their own lunch fosters skills of choosing healthy available options. Meals can be very simple and still provide excellent nutritional value. One option is having children select a protein and a vegetable for each of their meals.
Looking for resources? The books French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon and Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair are packed with valuable information.
Cultivating healthy nutrition is a process that takes time.
Repetition is helpful for building the foundations and maintaining consistency. It’s ok to not have the perfect diet all the time. What will influence long-term wellness from a nutrition standpoint is eating healthy whole foods as the default most of the time.
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