8 Steps to Healthy Family Meals

If you have a family, you know how difficult it can be to make sure they eat well-especially as your children age. However, there are ways to make sure they don’t fall into a steady diet of junk food.

8 Steps to Healthy Family Meals

Has your hectic lifestyle driven you to fast-food and take-out meals? Here are some tips to get your family back on the road to good nutrition.

It may take a few weeks to get used to the next routine, but your children will thank you for helping them develop good eating habits.

1. Practice Healthful Eating

Relaxed dining experiences with good food and conversation (that doesn’t involve criticizing table manners or pleading with children to eat) helps good digestion and eating habits. Involve children in family meals by having them help out with simple mealtime tasks. If mealtime is a pleasant event, children may practice healthful eating habits later on in life.

2. Get Familiar With Calorie Counts

The amount of food that a child needs varies according to height, build, gender, and activity level. Left to themselves, most children will usually eat the amount of food that’s right for them.

The daily calorie intake changes with each age:

  • 2-year-old: 1,300 calories per day
  • 5-year-old: 1,700
  • 16-year-old girl: 2,200
  • 16-year-old boy: 2,800

3. Forget the Lectures About Starving Children in Africa

Don’t force your children to eat more food than they want or need. Yesterday’s notion of “cleaning your plate” can lead to overeating and weight problems in some cases, or to a lifelong dislike of particular foods. Try serving smaller portions or allowing children to serve themselves.

4. Don’t Sweat Appetite Changes

In most children, appetite slackens as the growth rate slows after the first year; it will then vary throughout childhood. It’s perfectly normal for a young child to eat ravenously one day and then show little interest in food the following day.

Toddlers can go on food jags. Such food rituals are often short-lived, although they can be annoying or worrisome if they get out of hand. Respect the child’s preferences without giving in to every whim; offer a reasonable alternative. They may need five or six small meals or snacks a day. Schedule snacks so they don’t interfere with meals. Intervals of an hour and a half are usually enough.

5. Push Vegetables-Gently

Many parents have a battle when it comes to getting children to eat vegetables. Win children over by appealing to their taste for bright colours and interesting textures. Choose crisp, raw carrot sticks and other attractive, crunchy veggies. Substitute minced vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms) for ground meat in spaghetti sauce, or chop chickpeas with grains and other vegetables to make “veggie burgers.”

6. A Growing Epidemic: Obesity

In North America, children are becoming obese (defined as being 20 percent or more above desirable weight) or overweight in growing numbers and by earlier ages. The American Heart Association to establish guidelines urging parents to limit foods high in saturated fat for children over 2, encourage kids to consume more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Make sure your kids are meeting their daily calcium and iron requirements.

7. Watch the Snacks

Children, especially teens, prefer loaded with fat, sugar, and salt: potato chips, French fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, and candy bars. These are high in sodium and calories; a steady diet of them is low in vitamins A and C, calcium, and dietary fibre. Encourage healthy snacks and use the unhealthy ones as the occasional treat.

8. Pack Your Kids’ Lunches

While most school cafeterias are providing more healthy offerings for students, such as wraps and salads with low-fat dressings, many still serve fat-laden fries and other fast-food staples. School vending machines are packed with processed foods that also contain unhealthy trans fats. If your kids look forward to a special treat, slip in a homemade cookie, which is healthier than packaged varieties.

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