Home | Lifestyle | Babies & Children | Kids & Nutrition | How to Improve Nutritional Health in Kids

How to Improve Nutritional Health in Kids

by Saba Umar
  • Overview

    The American Dietetic Association reports that 80 percent to 90 percent of children from the ages of 4 to 13 are not consuming the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. We also know that diets which are high in fats, carbohydrates and sodium and low in protein and essential vitamins and minerals can lead to malnourishment. UNICEF states that malnourishment in children "blunts the intellect, saps the productivity of everyone it touches and perpetuates poverty." The key to improving the nutritional health of kids lies in educating them about nutrition without boring them.
 
  • Step 1

    Although unintentionally, our children try to imitate us even when choosing foods. Eat a healthy diet yourself to set a good example for your kids. Avoid junk food, alcohol and smoking at home. When dining out together, take a side salad instead of fries, and a fruit smoothie instead of soda. Having at least one meal together as a family is also a great idea, as it is helps families interact with each other, acquire good table manners, learn the importance of portion sizes and make healthier choices.
  • Step 2

    Plan meals together and take children grocery shopping with you to get them thinking about what they should eat and why. Make them plan a list of healthy meals for the week, and then help you prepare them in the kitchen. Show them how to read and interpret labels. Teach them about cleanliness while preparing meals. Cooking and shopping together also encourages them to try new and healthy foods.
  • Step 3

    Children require around two cups of fruits, and one to three cups of vegetables every day, according to their age. Eliminate unhealthy choices, and they will reach for fruits and vegetables. Replace potato chips with a banana. Keeping no junk food in the fridge, but only healthy fruit, leaves the kids without any other option. No matter what they pick, it will always be better than fries or a can of soda. While travelling, keep healthy foods for snacking. Avoid temptation to keep them in check now, and set the stage for lifelong healthy eating habits.
  • Step 4

    Kids are always attracted to colorful objects. Give them food in colorful fun-shaped bowls and plates, with cartoon characters they are familiar with, to set the ball rolling. Many children prefer vegetables that are bright in color, mild flavored, slightly undercooked, crunchy and easy to eat like carrots, peas, cabbage and corn, over vegetables with stronger flavors, because children have more taste buds than adults. Design funny faces with healthy foods on a sandwich to capture their imagination.
  • Step 5

    Fear of new foods is practically universal among children. Encourage your child to try out small amounts of new foods at the beginning of a meal when he is hungry. Offer the child small samples of new foods that adults are enjoying to stimulate the child's natural curiosity. Never force or bribe your child to try a new food, as it almost always erases any preference the child would have developed for the food otherwise.
  • Step 6

    Use items other than food to reward good behavior. Make a trip to the park rather than to the ice cream parlor. When kids associate rewards with junk and unhealthy foods, it becomes all the more desirable to them. On the other hand, banning a child from eating a favorite food makes them yearn for it more, too. The best way to deal with this is not to get food involved in any other areas of daily life.
  • 2
  • Do not overfeed your child. Obese and overweight children grow up to be obese adults as well. More than a third of American children between 2 and 19 are at risk of being overweight, and 17.8 percent are already overweight. Overweight kids are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases and diabetes later in life.
  • Do not overfeed your child. Obese and overweight children grow up to be obese adults as well. More than a third of American children between 2 and 19 are at risk of being overweight, and 17.8 percent are already overweight. Overweight kids are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases and diabetes later in life.

References & Resources