As parents, we do so much to provide the very best for our children. We worry about how much sleep they get, what’s happening at school and how their friends will influence their behavior. So why should it be any different when it comes to their nutrition? We should want the very best for them when it comes to what they’re consuming as well.
As they get older, you may feel that you’re depriving your children if you don’t allow them to have junk food but they will reflect on what they’ve been taught and the behaviors they have witnessed at home when making food choices on their own. It’s important to provide them with knowledge about nutrition so they can make smart choices when they’re not at home.
Young children don’t know what food choices are available to them other than what they have been fed. If you make a habit of providing good nutrition during the toddler and preschool years, then that is the healthy diet your little one will come to know and expect.
One important topic to think about is the use of “forbidden” foods – those that are high-fat, high-sugar, relatively low-nutrient foods such as candy, chips and soda. Incorporating “forbidden” foods requires a balancing act because if you give a child too many sweets they will fill up on them and miss important opportunities to learn to like more nutritious foods like vegetables. But restricting all access to these foods is also detrimental. Children need to learn how to incorporate these foods in a balanced and healthy way. This sets the foundation for later in life when they have unrestricted access.
What does a balanced diet look like?
Making sure your child gets a good mix of the following:
- Starch – bread, pasta and rice (whole wheat is the best source)
- Large amounts of fruit and vegetables – remember to aim for at least five portions a day
- Protein – meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils
- Dairy – cheese, yogurt, whole or low fat milk should be consumed every day
- Fat – Essential fatty acids found in food like salmon, almonds and olive oil