How to feed your kids healthfully

Author: Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD

Kids come in all shapes and sizes, and their nutritional needs vary with age and activity level. Feeding one child can be a balancing act, and having more than one to nourish is tricky at times. Luckily, there’s a lot of common ground when it comes to feeding youngsters healthfully. 

Serve Healthy Foods to Everyone

Kids are smaller than adults, but because they’re growing fast, they often require more energy and other nutrients on a pound-for-pound basis.

  • No matter what your age or activity level, every family member should fill up first on nutrient-rich foods.  The amount that children eat is what changes with time.
  • Pair a balanced plate with a glass of fat-free or low-fat milk or fortified soy beverage. Depending on their age, children need two to three daily servings of dairy foods or the equivalent.

Honor their Hunger

Children are born with the ability to regulate food intake according to their energy needs, and it’s important to avoid interfering with that capacity.

Don’t: Bribe, punish or reward your kids with food.

Do: Allow children to eat when they are hungry and stop when they’re full to help them best regulate their weight in the long run.

Model Good Nutrition

When it comes to feeding children, what you eat as a parent or other caregiver speaks volumes, which is why it’s important to lead by example. As often as possible, gather for family meals without the distraction of the TV or telephone. When families dine together, children get the chance to copy your healthy eating habits and good manners.  

Don’t: Insist your child eat low-sugar breakfast cereal topped with fruit while you skip the morning meal.

Do: Show him that you value a nutritious breakfast by taking the time to eat at home every morning or by taking a healthy meal to work.

Don’t: Tell them to finish their vegetables or drink their milk.

Do: Demonstrate to children how much you love vegetables and dairy by eating yours.

More about the author:

Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD:

Served as a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics for nearly 10 years, and is a well-known and respected expert in family nutrition.