Children and Food

Children need variety of food to grow strong and healthy. Whether a toddler or a teen, strategies to improve nutrition and encourage good eating habits is a challenge to parents.

Family meals:

Make sure the whole family has a meal together every day. Usually it is dinner and the weekends, turn Off TV, and make dinner/meal time special with good conversation, pleasant talks and good food. Schedule a time for each meal. A child looks forward to it in a daily routine.
Let the child serve his/her own food, this will teach them to be in control of their diet.
Respect if the child says he/she is “Full”; do not teach to over stuff. They will not know when to stop in future.
Do not bribe over food with Desserts. Encourage kids to taste/try every dish that is prepared. If they really don’t like it, excuse them!

Be a Role model:

Remember your child is observing the way you eat. Set an example by following what you are preaching, eat healthy food yourself! Do not pass on certain foods.

Involve Kids in the process of planning meals:

Take the kids to the super market grocery store. Let your child pick items for a meal of a day of the week, listen and give suggestions. Fresh, colored fruits and vegetables will be appetizing and tingle the taste buds of a child. Plan out a balanced meal together, let the child help you with small things like garnishing, it makes them feel responsible and proud.

Stock up Healthy food:

Remove chips, cookies and chocolates from the snack shack and replace it with Fresh fruit, nuts, crackers, pretzels, pop corn, dried fruit – dates, prunes, raisins; corn chips, Gold fish etc.
But, let me add here; do not deprive the child of junk food. Portion control is a key word.
Stock cut vegetable or fruit trays/platters in the refrigerator. Ready to serve platters come in handy for a quick snack. Use low fat dips, cottage cheese, ranch dressings, chocolate dips, or yogurt base as a perk to get them started.
It is easy and quick to bite into a baby carrot or celery stick while dipping in ranch that is handy.
I would encourage parents to have a dialogue with their kids about healthy food habits. Read the “Food Labels “together and teach/ explain what it means.
Encourage kids to drink plenty of water. Limit sodas, colas, sugar drinks and substitute them with fresh fruit juices, lemonade, iced tea, yogurt and Popsicles.
Substitute white bread with whole wheat or multi grain breads; potato chips with corn chips or tortillas with salsa. Avoid deep fried foods, choosing broiling, grilling, roasting or steaming instead.


Colorful and attractive appearance/display of an item tempts the child to take a taste. Small servings, especially finger foods or food that can be picked up with a tooth pick are exciting for a child to explore. A bowl of pineapple cubes served with a tooth pick is fun for a child to eat while playing. Spare the mess though!
Food that is made to look like art raises curiosity in a child. Pancakes decorated like smiley face with whipped cream or PB & J sandwiches cut into diamonds or cool shapes will be greatly appreciated.

3 Meals and a snack:

A time honored tradition of breakfast, lunch and dinner has been the three meals of a day.
A good heavy breakfast is a “Must” for school going kids. A solid Breakfast of cereal with milk or oatmeal with fresh fruit, nuts, and raisins will give the energy a child needs to concentrate in School. I prefer No-sugar Breakfast, as the kids tend to be hyper during the first half of the day and burn their energy too fast and be too tired later.
A Healthy school lunch with a grain based main course, bread, pasta, rice etc. A side serving of: fresh fruit, vegetable or beans (baked, fried, cooked) of any kind. A Milk product like cheese, yogurt etc will balance a noon time meal.
After a tiring day at school, kids need a quick snack to jump start the rest of the day. Milk, fruit juice, nuts, multi grained chips with salsa, egg salad, crackers, sprouts and hummus etc.
Children should be encouraged to get out doors more and play and run around, ride their bicycles etc. This will give them the exercise they need. A healthy diet and physical fitness goes a long way in a child’s life. Awareness of both can make them mentally and physically strong.
A family dinner with mom’s traditional food is not a bad idea. Encourage kids to eat the same, when alternatives are shown/ offered they are definitely chosen!
A small treat for a dessert occasionally should be fine. But serve fresh fruit after dinner during TV time.

I am not a parenting expert of any kind. I am, myself a mother of a 12 year old daughter and 9 year old son. I do this with my kids and so far, have been successful with it. Both of them have embraced the better of both the worlds. They enjoy and eat Indian food as well as International food. We, as a family are vegetarians and they choose to be too. It is very easy with my daughter but I need to be creative with my son. He is not a big food fan. He hates nuts and calls them “stones“, so I created a “mixed nuts” powder and use in my cooking and both of us are happy. He does not touch fried food, but that, I pass on for now.
Last summer I bought some salted shelled peanuts and asked him to help me remove the nuts. During the process he tasted one and felt they were not bad. So, baby steps with nuts went as far as a peanut!
We take our kids on fruit and vegetable picking every year. We look for the season’s picks in farms around our area and make it a family outing. They have started appreciating fruit and vegetables more. I just hope they enjoy that as much as I do.
Views expressed in the article are entirely my ideas, worked for me, sharing it with you all. I am more than happy if they work for you too.

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