A Balanced Diet for Kids
What is it? How to Make it Happen?
Medical and nutrition professionals are really good at making nutrition complicated. Case in point, what is a balanced diet for kids mean? At Foublie, we believe a balanced diet for little ones goes way beyond eating “healthy” foods. For kids this means learning to trust their cues to know when they are hungry and full, learning to eat a variety of different foods, and for parents to trust that kids will eat what they need.
Beyond that though, don’t know what foods contain choline or long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids? It’s OK. Let us break down nutrition into the facts every family must know.
Balanced eating = an emotionally strong relationship with food
We all have happy food memories (thank you for forcing me to decorate thousands of Christmas Cookies, mom!). Food should bring joy and parents have a role to establish that.
Generally, never pressure your little one to eat, or eat something they don’t want to. This can back fire and cause picky eating.
For our food allergy families, food can cause stress. Remember to respect your child and never force them to eat anything they don’t want to. This is really important as they develop a relationship with food.
This is a plug for fruits and vegetables. Does it matter what kind? Not really, as long as you are guided by the rainbow.
Mix up your protein
Every week get a mix of protein. Try fatty fish like salmon, meat, eggs, tofu, dairy, nuts, and legumes like beans or lentils. If you are following a plant based diet- legumes, beans, and tofu are great.
If you can have milk: we love yogurt and cottage cheese
If you can have tree nuts & peanuts: Nut butters are great
If you can have eggs: Try breakfast for dinner or an egg-salad sandwich
At Foublie, our favorite protein is salmon
Whole grains for the win
Whole grains are harder to digest, so you get an extra bit of fiber (something many of us need!). They also make us feel more full. When you purchase packaged foods that are whole grain they are usually less processed. One way to check is reading those nutrition labels. A nice check is to try to pronounce the ingredients, especially those listed first.
If you get stuck in a rut
That’s ok! We all know some weeks are more hectic than others. But a balanced diet for kids does mean you mix things up. Let the rainbow guide you. Can you add one new vegetable to the dish you always make? Riced cauliflower usually can be added with minimal disruption of taste and time, and they sell it frozen.
Be ready for picky ones
This will happen so just get ready for it. Continue to serve new and a variety of foods but do it with something familiar like bread. Never beg a child to eat. Repeat. Don’t do it. Trust that over the course of the week or month they will get what they need. Be firm about what you serve for meals and trust that your kids will get what they need.
You must be balanced too
If you make a yuck face when you eat broccoli, your child will probably not want to try it or think it’s gross too. Try being adventurous for your children. Give all foods a try! Even ones you think you don’t like.
Think you hate peas? Try them mashed. Are you boiling brussel sprouts? Please stop and sautee them with bacon. Which leads us to the next point.
Food is not bad nor is it a treat
We believe that no foods- like sweets or brownies- should ever be off limits. We were raised to believe that anything in moderation is OK. But that is us! You do you. If you want to avoid sweets at home, do it. We won’t stop you. Some experts actually recommend offering dessert at the same time you offer all the other foods and letting your kids even have it first. It normalizes it and that keeps food neutral.
This neutrality is super important. Try not to call a food bad or good. It is important to label foods safe and unsafe, and those labels are ok. Also, try not to elevate certain foods to a higher status. What does this mean? Try not to offer dessert as a reward for eating vegetables. It teaches your kids that ice cream is better than brussels sprouts (which it is, but they don’t need to know that yet).
Want more help?
Hungry? Us too. If you want more detail on the exact nutrients the AAP has outlined to be necessary for a balanced diet for kids and which foods may contain it, click here to see what Dr. Maria uses at home.
Connect with a Foublie Coach to figure out how to make balanced eating happen in your home! You’ve got this.
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