September 19, 2017

Encouraging Kids to Eat Healthy

The food choices that school-age children and youth make directly influence their learning and health. Good nutrition contributes to healthy growth and development, and promotes concentration.

Healthy eating means enjoying eating, eating when hungry and using Health Canada’s Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide to help choose the right amount and type of foods to eat.

Make meal and snack times pleasant for talking as a family

  • Eat meals and snacks together as a family. Children who sit down with others regularly for meals are more likely to eat healthier, learn table manners and develop stronger relationships.
  • Avoid talking about difficult issues that can make mealtime stressful – plan another time to discuss them.
  • Allow enough time for children to eat and encourage them to eat slowly.
  • Reduce distractions by turning off the TV in order to focus on food, family and friends.

family eating

Try new foods

  • Encourage children and youth to try new foods along with familiar foods without forcing them.
  • It can take many attempts before some children and youth will taste and enjoy a new food.
  • Include foods that aren’t your favourites. Children and youth may like peas even if you don’t. They pick up messages about how you view food. If you are excited about a new food, they may be too.

Involve children and youth in the planning, shopping, preparing and serving of meals

  • Children and youth can have fun, develop cooking skills and are more likely to eat the food offered when they are involved.
  • Plan meals and snacks for the next week together.
  • Allow children and youth to look through cookbooks and choose recipes they would like to try.
  • Take children and youth shopping, and teach them to read labels.
  • With supervision, all children and youth can help with meal preparation.

Eat and enjoy a variety of foods from each of the four food groups every day

  • Begin every day with a healthy breakfast. Include healthy food choices from at least three of the four food groups from Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Set limits to make sure that those “sometimes foods” (e.g. soft drinks, chocolate bars and potato chips) do not replace foods from the four food groups at either meals or snacks.
  • Prepare healthy snacks and healthy meals.
  • Try serving raw vegetables at dinner – children and youth often like them better than cooked vegetables.
  • Fill a bowl with fruit and put it where it can be easily reached.

child eating

Serve water more often and limit fruit juice to one cup (250 mL) daily

  • Limit drinks with caffeine and/or added sugars (e.g. tea, coffee, soft drinks, fruit drinks and sport drinks). Energy drinks are not recommended for children or youth.

Accept that adults are responsible for what, when and where children eat

  • Adults are responsible for providing children with a variety of nutritious foods to choose from, regular times to eat, and a safe and relaxing place to eat

Listen to your body and allow children and youth to do the same

  • When children and youth are healthy and active, adults need to trust that children know when they are hungry, when they are full, and how much to eat.
  • Children and youth should stop eating when they feel full, even if they have not finished everything on their plate. Let them choose foods from the healthy choices available at each meal.
  • Children have small stomachs and need to eat often during the day to make sure they get all the nutrition they need to grow, learn and play.

Avoid using food as a reward or punishment

  • If food is used to reward or punish, it can change how children view food. Soothe hurt feelings with a hug instead of food.

apple picking

This information was provided by Toronto Public Health. Information provided on the FoodReach website does not replace any advice given by a doctor and does not provide all of the necessary information regarding your health, nutrition and preventing illnesses.

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