Eating habits are established early in life and, like all habits, they can be hard to change. Because of this, it is wise to institute a healthy dietary plan in your house before your children begin eating solid food.
Teaching children to eat for good health and energy gives them the ability to develop sound attitudes about nutrition, exercise and their bodies.
Top Ten Healthy Eating Tips
As in most things, the keys to good nutrition are balance and moderation. Here are the top ten tips for healthy eating:
- Read labels. Nutrition labels can be a great source of information helping you to make wise choices. Learn to read them and understand the different categories.
- Fat matters. Although everyone needs a bit of fat in their diet, the source of the fat matters a great deal. The healthiest fats are unsaturated – choose olive, canola or soy oils. Remember though, that even healthy oils are high in calories, so use them sparingly.
- Sweets are not so sweet.Occasional sugary treats are fine, but try not to eat them on a regular basis. Sugar and other sweeteners are loaded with calories and contribute to tooth decay, but offer no real nutritional value.
- Lean is the way to go. When selecting proteins, choose lean or low fat meats, chicken, turkey and fish. Also, try to get some of your protein from non-animal sources such as nuts, chick peas, kidney beans and soy products.
- Build those bones. Be sure to get sufficient calcium by choosing a variety of dairy products (low fat or nonfat for older children and teens). Milk, cheese, yogurt and even the occasional ice cream can help you to meet your need for calcium.
- Fruit is a natural sweet treat. Unlike processed sweets, fruit is nature’s way of satisfying your sweet tooth in a healthy, wholesome way. Enjoy fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruits on a daily basis. Be sure to avoid those that have added sugars, though.
- Mum was right, eat your veggies! Eating a variety of vegetables is a great way to boost your nutritional status. Enjoy all of them, but focus on those with a dark, rich colour, such as spinach, broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes.
- Grains are great. Choose whole grain foods such as breads, oatmeal and brown rice over the processed types. Read those nutrition labels – “wheat bread” is not necessarily “whole grain wheat bread.” And remember, popcorn is a whole grain, so enjoy (just skip the butter).
- Basic is better. In general, the less processed your food is, the better. A piece of fresh fruit is better than fruit juice, which is far better than chewy fruit sweets. Keep it simple and you can’t lose.
- Moderation is the way to go. There is nothing harmful about a rare indulgence. Have a slice of great cake to celebrate family birthdays and treat yourself to a double scoop of your favourite ice cream on a sunny summer afternoon – just don’t do it everyday or even every week, for that matter. Comprise the bulk of your family’s diet from healthy, natural, whole foods and then you won’t have to feel a bit guilty when you choose not to resist the occasional temptation.
Nutritional guidelines will vary a bit for the different members of the family. Adult bodies have different needs than those of teenagers, school aged children, toddlers and babies.
Check with your family doctor for specific recommendations for each of your family members based not just on age, but also on overall health and condition.
From there, you will be able to formulate a plan that maximises everyone’s capacity for robust health and energy.