Left to their own devices, kids will likely eat what’s easy. So, in order to help them to consume a healthy, balanced diet, try to stock a variety of good-for-them snacks and pack lunches that include kid-friendly, but healthy items.
Children need to snack. Their little tummies can only hold so much at a time, so snacking, when chosen well, can go a long way to boost their consumption of healthy foods. In general, try to encourage whole foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and other simple, wholesome selections. Whole grain toast or waffles, nut butters, and nutritious smoothies all appeal to kids, while providing their bodies with good fuel for growth and development.
Food Labels offer a wealth of information to help you make good choices for your kids (and for yourself!). The sugar and processed flour contained in many products that are marketed to children offer nothing to benefit their nutritional status, and may, in fact, be detrimental to their health. Whole grains are far better than processed grains, and while sweets are fine for occasional treats, they should not be components of a child’s daily diet.
Children need a bit of fat in their diet, but it is important to choose healthy fats, such as olive or canola oil. Avoid products that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, and if the label mentions trans fats, put it right back on the shelf.
Exercise caution when shopping and learn to choose wisely by reading food labels. It is not enough to look at a product’s name to determine its quality. For example, crackers or bread may say that they contain wheat, but until you read the food label, you cannot be sure whether or not you are considering a whole grain product.
Eating Well Away from Home
While you may find it manageable to encourage your kids to eat well when they are at home, you cannot be with them every waking moment. Packing healthy lunches can help, and gives more opportunities to provide nourishing foods. Since your child’s lunchbox can hold a limited amount of food, strive for nutrient rich choices that they’ll find appealing. Nutritional guidelines for school aged children, set by the British Nutrition Foundation, recommend the following:
- Strive for five a day. Be sure to pack those fruits and veggies!
- Shoot for 2–3 servings of dairy foods every day.
- One third of the daily diet should come from cereal, bread, and potatoes – emphasize whole grains.
- Include sensible protein foods, including 2 servings of fish weekly.
- Drink a minimum of six glasses of water daily – more for active kids.
- Limit sweets and fatty foods to one serving or less per day. Ideally, such foods should be reserved for special occasions.
For advice on healthy eating when you are eating in a pub or restaurant, read our article on Choosing Healthy Foods for Kids When Eating Out on our Kids & Nutrition site.
In their Bellies, Not in the Bin
Remember, no matter how healthy the contents of your children’s lunchboxes are, it won’t do them any good if they throw the food away rather than eating it. Ask your kids for suggestions, and try to give them a variety of good choices. Stock up on their favourite fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods.
Also, make an effort to keep their lunches interesting. No matter how much your child loves strawberry yoghurt, if you pack it every single day, it will quickly lose its appeal.
Quick Snacks and Lunchbox Treats
Today’s busy parents have less time than ever to see that their children eat a well-balanced diet, but there are some convenient foods that are healthy choices. Single serving packages of applesauce (unsweetened, of course), yoghurt, string cheese, whole grain crackers, cut up veggies, and fresh fruit are all easy to prepare and pack. In reality, the healthiest foods are often the simplest. An apple requires nothing more than a washing to make it ready to eat!