Diet Plan

A Guide to a Encourage Healthy Diet for Kids

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Healthy Diet for Kids: Peer pressure for junk food and TV commercials can make it an uphill struggle for your kids to eat well. Factor in your own busy schedule and it’s no wonder so many kids’ diets are built around convenience and takeout food. But switching to a healthy diet can have a profound effect on your child’s health, helping them maintain a healthy weight, stabilize their mood, sharpen their minds, and avoid a variety of health problems. A healthy diet can also have a profound effect on your child’s sense of mental and emotional well-being, helping to prevent conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and ADHD.

Eating well supports your child’s healthy growth and development into adulthood and may also play a role in reducing the risk of suicide. If your child has already been diagnosed with a mental health problem, a healthy diet can help them manage symptoms and regain control of their health.

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It’s important to remember that your children aren’t born with a craving for French fries and pizza and a hatred for broccoli and carrots. This conditioning occurs over time as they are exposed to more and more unhealthy food choices. However, it’s possible to reprogram your children’s food preferences so that they crave healthier foods instead.


The sooner you introduce nutritious, nutritious alternatives into a child’s diet, the more easily they will be able to develop a healthy relationship with food that can last them a lifetime. And it can be simpler and less time-consuming than you imagine. With these tips, you can cultivate healthy eating habits without turning meal times into a war zone and give your children the best opportunity to grow into healthy, well-balanced adults.

Encourage Healthy Diet Habits

Whether they’re toddlers or in their teens, children develop a natural preference for the foods they enjoy most. To encourage healthy eating habits, the challenge is to make nutritious choices attractive.

Focus on the overall diet rather than specific foods. Children should eat more whole, minimally processed food—food that is as close to the natural form as possible—and less packaged and processed food.

Be a role model. The childhood impulse to imitate is strong so don’t tell your child to eat vegetables when eating potato chips. Instead, show your child that you’re enjoying a variety of vegetables and varied meals, as well as limiting their own screen time and participating in physical activity.

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Hide the taste of healthy foods like bitter vegetables. Serve vegetables with dips like ranch, ketchup, hummus, or cheese sauce to pique their interest. Add mixed vegetables to favorite sauces or beef stew. Or try adding spinach or avocado to a smoothie.

Cook more meals at home. Restaurants and takeout meals tend to contain more sugar and unhealthy fats, so cooking at home can have a huge impact on your children’s health. If you make large batches, just a few times cooking may be enough to feed your family for the entire week.

Involve children in buying groceries and preparing meals. You can teach them about different foods and how to read food labels.

Provide healthy snacks. Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy beverages (water, milk, pureed fruit juice) on hand so kids avoid unhealthy snacks like soda, chips, and cookies.

Limit portion sizes. Don’t force your child to clean plates, and never use food as a reward or bribe.

Healthy food for kids starts with breakfast

Children who enjoy breakfast every day have better memories, more stable moods and energy, and score higher on tests. Eating a breakfast high in quality protein from enriched cereals, yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs, meat, or fish can also help teens manage their weight.

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  • Breakfast doesn’t take time. Boil some eggs at the beginning of the week and offer them to your kids every morning with a low-sugar, high-protein cereal and an apple.
  • An egg sandwich, a pot of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, and peanut butter on whole-grain toast can all be eaten on the way to school.
  • High-protein pre-made waffles and pancakes, or even protein bars, are easy to grab and go on busy mornings.
  • Smoothies with oats, chia seeds, or flaxseed added to fruits and vegetables can provide additional nutrients.

Make mealtimes about more than just healthy food

Making time to sit down as a family to eat a home-cooked meal not only sets a great example for kids about the importance of healthy eating, it can bring a family together—even moody teenagers love to eat delicious, home-cooked meals!

Regular family meals provide comfort. Knowing that the whole family will sit down to eat dinner (or breakfast) together at about the same time every day can be very relaxing for children and increase appetite.

Family meals provide an opportunity to catch up on your children’s daily lives. Gathering the family around a table for food is an ideal opportunity to talk and listen to your children without the distraction of TV, phone, or computer.

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Social interaction is important for your child. The simple act of talking to parents at the dinner table about how they feel can play a big role in relieving stress and boosting your child’s mood and self-esteem. And it gives you a chance to identify problems in your child’s life and deal with them early.

Meal time enables you to “teach by example.” Eating together can help your kids watch you eat healthy foods while keeping your portions in check and limiting junk food. Avoid obsessive calorie counting or commenting on your weight, though, so that your children don’t adopt negative associations with food.

Meal timing lets you monitor your children’s eating habits. This can be important for older children and teens who spend a lot of time eating at school or at friends’ houses. If your teen’s choices are less than ideal, the best way to make changes is to emphasize the short-term consequences of poor dieting, such as physical appearance or athletic ability. These are more important for adolescents than long-term health. For example, “Calcium will help you get taller,” or, “Iron will help you do better on tests.”

Limit sugar and refined carbs in your child’s diet

Simple or refined carbohydrates are sugars and refined grains that have been stripped of all the bran, fiber, and nutrients—such as white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, white flour, white rice, and many breakfast cereals. They can cause dangerous spikes in blood sugar and fluctuations in mood and energy.

Complex carbs, on the other hand, are typically high in nutrients and fiber and digested slowly, providing long-lasting energy. These include whole wheat or multigrain pieces of bread, high-fiber cereals, brown rice, beans, nuts, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables.

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A baby’s body needs all the sugar naturally occurring in food. Added sugar just means empty calories that can contribute to hyperactivity and mood disorders, and increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even suicidal behavior in adolescents.

How to cut down on sugar

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children 2 years and older consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar daily. Beverages are often a great source of added sugars. For example, a 12-ounce soda has 10 teaspoons or 40 grams of added sugar, a 20-ounce sports drink has 34 grams of added sugar, and a medium frozen chocolate coffee shake can have 113 grams of added sugar.

  • Excess sugar can also be hidden in foods such as bread, canned soups and vegetables, frozen dinners, and fast food. About 75% of packaged food in the U.S. contains added sugar.
  • Do not ban sweets completely. Having a no-sweets rule is an invitation to cravings and overindulging when given the chance.
  • Give the dishes a makeover. Many recipes taste just as good with less sugar.
  • Avoid sugary drinks, such as soda, sports drinks, and coffee treats. Instead, try adding a splash of fruit juice to sparkling water or blending whole milk with bananas or berries for a tasty smoothie.
  • Make your own popsicles and frozen treats. Freeze 100% fruit juice in an ice-cube tray with a plastic spoon as a popsicle handle. Or make frozen fruit kebabs using pineapple pieces, bananas, grapes, and berries.

Avoid foods that impair your child’s mood

  • A diet high in processed foods, such as fried food, sweet desserts, sugary snacks, refined flour, and cereals can increase the risk for anxiety and depression in kids.
  • Kids who drink four or more cups of soda or sweetened fruit drinks a day—including diet versions—have a higher risk for depression.
  • Caffeine from soda, energy drinks, or coffee drinks can trigger anxiety in kids and aggravate feelings of depression.

Find healthier junk food alternatives

Fast food is typically high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and calories and low in nutrients. Still, junk food is appealing to kids, so instead of eliminating it altogether, try cutting down on the time your kids eat fast food and the time they do, making the healthiest choices possible.

Kid-friendly junk food alternatives

Instead of… Try…
French fries “Baked fries” grilled in the oven and salted lightly
Ice cream Yogurt; sorbet; fresh fruit smoothies
Fried chicken Baked or grilled chicken
Doughnuts or pastries Bagels; English muffins; home-baked goods with less sugar
Chocolate-chip cookies Graham crackers, fig bars, vanilla wafers, fruit and caramel dip
Potato chips Baked vegetable chips or, for older children, nuts

Eating out with kids

  • Skip the fries. Instead, take along mini carrots, grapes, or a bag of other fruits and vegetables.
  • See portion size. Stick to the kids’ menu or go for the smallest size. Order pizza by the slice—it’ll satisfy your kid’s craving without it being tempted.
  • Order baby food with replacement. Children often prefer baby food more to toys than food. Ask to substitute healthier alternatives for soda and fries.
  • Opt for chicken and vegetables at sit-down restaurants instead of a big plate of macaroni and cheese.

Be smart about fat

Kids need healthy fats—and lots of them—in their diets. Healthy fats help kids fill up (and stay full), concentrate better, and improve their mood.

Healthy fats

From monounsaturated fats, olive oil, avocados, nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans), and seeds (such as pumpkin, and sesame).

Polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, are found in fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies and sardines, or flaxseed and walnuts.

Unhealthy fats

Trans fats are found in vegetable shortening, some margarine, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made from “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oils (even though they claim to be trans-fat-free). No amount of trans fat is safe.

Encourage picky eaters to enjoy a wider variety of foods

Picky eaters are going through a normal growth phase. Just as it takes many repetitions for advertising to convince an adult consumer to buy, most children take 8-10 presentations of a new food before openly accepting it.

Instead of simply insisting your child eat a new food:

  1. Give new food only when your child is hungry; Limit snacks throughout the day.
  2. Present only one new food at a time.
  3. Make it fun: Cut food into unusual shapes or make an edible collage (broccoli florets for trees, cauliflower for clouds, yellow squash for sun).
  4. Serve new foods with favorite foods to increase acceptance. For example, add vegetables to their favorite soups.
  5. Have your child help prepare meals—they’ll be willing to eat something they helped create.
  6. Limit beverages and snacks to avoid filling up between meals.

Make fruit and vegetables more appealing

Whether picky eaters or not, kids don’t always want what’s healthy for them—especially fruits and vegetables. But there are ways to make them more enticing.

The first step is to limit access to unhealthy sweets and salty snacks. It’s very easy to explain to your child that applesauce with peanut butter is a treat if there are no cookies available. Here are some more tips to include more fruits and vegetables in your child’s diet:

Let your children choose the produce. It can be fun to see all the different types of fruits and vegetables available for kids and choose our new or old favorites to try.

Add vegetables to other foods. Add grated or chopped vegetables to stews and sauces to mix them. Make cauliflower “mac” and cheese. Or bake some zucchini bread or carrot muffins.

Keep plenty of fresh fruit and veggie snacks on hand. Make sure they are already washed, shredded, and ready to go. Add yogurt, nut butter, or hummus for extra protein.

Don’t ignore weight problems

Children who are significantly overweight are at greater risk for heart disease, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, poor self-esteem, and long-term health problems in adulthood.

Addressing weight problems in children requires a coordinated plan of physical activity and healthy nutrition.

The goal is to slow or prevent weight gain (not weight loss, unless directed by your child’s doctor), thereby allowing your child to grow to his or her ideal weight.

Don’t fall into the low-fat trap. Because fat is so dense in calories, a little can go a long way in making kids feel full and keep them feeling full for longer.

Eating a breakfast high in quality protein from enriched cereals, yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs, meat, or fish can help overweight teens eat fewer calories throughout the day.

Encourage exercise

The benefits of lifelong exercise are abundant and regular exercise can also help motivate your children to make healthier food choices.

  • Play with your kids. Throw around a football; go cycling, skating, or swimming; take family walks and hikes.
  • Help your kids find activities they enjoy by showing them different possibilities.

Disclaimer

This article is purposive for intended general information and does not mark individual circumstances. It is not an alternative to professional advice or help. It should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician must be consulted to diagnose and treat any medical condition. Any action you take due to the information on this page is entirely at your own risk and responsibility!

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Rishi Govind is a nutritionist and nutrition counselor in New Delhi, India. He is a Postgraduate and passionate about his work. Rishi has over 3 years of experience helping people change their relationship with food and their bodies. He specializes in helping people with chronic dieting issues, food allergies and sensitivities, and digestive problems. Rishi's approach is rooted in the belief that everybody is unique and deserves individualized attention. Rishi is passionate about helping his clients feel their best. He is committed to helping them find peace with food and their bodies so they can live their lives to the fullest.

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