One of the most important things you should do as a parent is to help your child develop healthy eating habits. Children need a balanced diet that includes foods from all three food groups: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and protein foods.
Babies need 3 meals and 1 to 3 snacks per day (morning, afternoon and possibly bedtime). Healthy snacks are just as important as the food you serve.
The best foods are whole, fresh and unprocessed—fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy and meat; and home-cooked meals.
sugar and sugar substitutes
Offer products without sugar or sugar substitutes. Limit refined sugar (sucrose, glucose-fructose, white sugar), honey, molasses, syrup, and brown sugar. They both contain the same calories and can also contribute to tooth decay.
Sugar substitutes like aspartame and sucralose don’t add calories or cause tooth decay, but they are sweeter than sugar and have no nutritional value. They can cause sugar cravings and make it harder for your child to get used to fruits and vegetables. It is recommended to limit them in a child’s diet.
juice and water
Provide water if your child is thirsty, especially between meals and snacks.
Limit fruit juice intake to one serving (125 ml [4 ounces]) per day of 100% unsweetened fruit juice.
Offering real fruit instead of juice will add healthy fiber to your child’s diet.
Sometimes children drink too much between meals, which makes them feel full.
Sodium is a mineral that helps maintain adequate fluids in the body. It is also important for nerve and muscle function. But consuming too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease. Sodium is often referred to as salt.
Offer your child as many healthy, low-sodium foods as possible.
Processed and packaged foods are high in sodium.
Excessive sodium intake in childhood can lead to a preference for salty foods, which has been linked to obesity and/or disease later in life.
Use the % Daily Value (DV) on product labels to compare products. Look for foods with less than 15% of your daily sodium intake.
When choosing foods for your child, keep the recommended sodium intake in mind:
What about fat?
Healthy fats contain essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, which cannot be produced in the body and must be obtained from food. Cook with vegetable oils such as canola, olive and/or soybean oil. Healthy fats are also found in salad dressings, non-hydrogenated margarines, nut butters like peanut butter, and mayonnaise.
Many fats that stay solid at room temperature are high in trans and saturated fats, which can increase the risk of heart disease. Limit butter, hard margarine, lard, and shortening. Read labels and avoid trans or saturated fats found in many store-bought foods, such as cookies, doughnuts, and crackers.
Limit your intake of processed meats, such as sausages and jerky, which are also high in fat, sodium (salt), and nitrates (preservatives).
Your job as a parent:
A set menu and dim sum time for the whole family. Share food and meals with your child.
Provide a balanced and varied diet for all food groups at mealtimes.
Provide food in a way they can easily manage. For example, cut into small pieces or mash so that children do not choke.
Help your child learn how to use a spoon or cup so they can eat by themselves.
Involve your child in age-appropriate cooking and table setting.
Don’t use candy as a bribe. Offer healthy dessert options, such as a cup of fruit or yogurt.
Show your child how to read labels to help you make grocery choices while shopping.
Avoiding fast food restaurants shows your kids the importance of enjoying family meals while eating healthy, home-cooked meals.
Here’s your child’s job:
Be selective about the meals and snacks you offer (sometimes this can be pointless).
Eat as much as you want.