Healthful Nutrition with Children
November is upon us and the holidays are fast approaching. No matter which holidays you might participate in, food is often a large part of your celebration. As a caregiver of children, it is sometimes difficult to ensure my children are eating healthy. I remember when my son was a toddler: He would not eat on a regular schedule and he was so picky! He wouldn’t eat anything except macaroni and cheese, green beans, strawberries, pizza and hot dogs. That’s a pretty limited meal plan! My husband and I were worried about his weight and the fact that he couldn’t possibly be getting enough nutrition on that limited diet! Our family pediatrician assured us that he would eat when he was hungry and that his weight was okay for his age and height. Today, he plays football on a junior league and has bulked up considerably. His taste for other foods has expanded and he is enjoying more fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a host of protein sources. What worked? We kept offering all the foods.
When I taught preschool, I was able to learn more about child nutrition and healthy meal plans. I learned that children want to help with the meal from beginning to end. They can help clean and set the table. They can also help pass the food and take their own portions if we use serving bowls and spoons that are child size and child friendly. Children can also help clean up after the meal, wash dishes, and sweep floors. Not just older children can do these things, but children as young as 2 or 3!
Children of school age, even preschool age, can also help prepare meals by cutting up fruit and vegetables, stirring, pouring, and measuring ingredients. They can even help you shop for groceries! Allow your youngest children to help you find specific produce by giving them a picture with the word of the item you are looking for. Then, cruise the produce section of the grocery store and see if your child can find that item (or items). Children who are able to write can help you make your grocery list by writing the items as you spell them out. Or, allow them to sound out the words and write them on their own. Invented spelling is okay, as long as you know what the list says.
The point is, we all eat. We have to have food as a source of fuel, and we use food to help us celebrate throughout the year. Since it is such a big part of our lives, we can involve our children in the entire process of meal planning and preparing. In this way, we can teach our children how to eat healthy and allow them to have a vested interest in what they are eating
Find healthy recipes here.
Guest Blogger: Amy Bedner, Early Childhood Consultant at Wayne RESA GSRP