Abalanced diet is important for everyone when it comes to your personal health, but it can be doubly important in children. What your child is eating now is laying the foundation for later in life, and your behavior and attitude about food is making an impression on them every time you sit down at the dinner table.
Beyond offering up balanced meals and healthy options at mealtime, sometimes it can be difficult to get your child to actually eat them. Sure, you may be serving them up, but if they’re discarding or eating just a bite or two of their vegetables every meal in favor of the beef strongman or the turkey and cheese sandwich, their diet is still lacking.
If your kids are anything like mine, threatening them with the old “you can’t do that until you eat your vegetables” is only going to make them more stubborn about not eating their vegetables. Below I share what I’ve found works best in making sure that my kids are getting nutrition from all areas of the food pyramid and in the right amounts.
6 Ways to a Balanced Diet with Your Child
1. FIGURE OUT WHAT TIME YOUR CHILD EATS THE MOST.
One thing my pediatrician always stresses is not to worry if one of our kids just doesn’t seem hungry for one meal. It’s normal for appetite to fluctuate as little bodies grow and change within a matter of a week or even on a day-to-day basis.
I’ve noticed that each of my children have different appetite patterns. My eldest is not a breakfast person, while my oldest son is hungriest in the morning, eating everything in sight and still asking for a snack 20 minutes later. At dinner, however, he is usually indifferent, even if we’re having one of his favorite meals.
Knowing that he’ll likely be willing to eat just about anything for breakfast, I am sure to pack lots of nutrition in early. I offer several fruits and whole grains with breakfast, and for a snack I’ll offer carrot sticks or another vegetable. I try to make sure his diet is balanced throughout the day so that one bad meal isn’t going to mean he ate nothing but carbohydrates all day.
2. MAKE FOOD FUN.
For a three-year-old, a plate full of vegetables may not seem very exciting. Changing that perception can go a long way in getting your children to eat healthy and balanced meals.
As broccoli florets turn into tiny trees and mushrooms become homes for the grains of rice, creativity at the table can be a good thing. Earlier this month, Aimée shared a recipe for cheese fondue to eat with the whole family. This can also be a perfect way to get your kids thinking about vegetables in a fun and exciting way. A plate full of vegetables that is going to go swimming in cheese sauce can be very fun.
3. SERVE ONE THING THEY LIKE.
I don’t cater to my children’s likes or dislikes when serving meals, but I do try to make sure that each meal contains something that they will eat so they aren’t starving the next morning.
For example, my 9-year-old recently decided that she no longer likes asparagus after 9 years of eating it happily. Knowing that she hates it so, I try to pair it with things I know she likes, like salmon. I know she’ll eat the salmon, even if she doesn’t eat more than the required amount of asparagus and won’t leave the dinner table ravenously hungry.
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