Healthy diet for kids?
A healthy diet is one that, first and foremost, offers a balanced menu that meets the nutritional needs of growing children and teenagers. It includes quality foods, both from a nutritional and sensory standpoint, in other words it combines wholesomeness and pleasure!
A healthy, balanced diet features a variety of foods from each of the four food groups: fruits and vegetables, grain products, dairy products, and meat and alternatives. A healthy diet does not exclude any foods, even those considered unhealthy or “bad”.
Of course some foods have greater nutritional value than others, and these are the foods that should appear most often on your child’s plate. Here are some examples:
Vegetables and fruits consumed on a daily basis, preferably not only as juice
Dairy products consumed on a daily basis, with special emphasis on milk, an affordable and accessible source of calcium and vitamin D
Fiber-rich foods such as grain products made from whole grains as well as fruits and vegetables
A variety of meat and alternatives, including fish, skinless poultry, tofu, and legumes
Fresh products and those that have undergone as little processing as possible, to limit sodium (salt) and sugar intake
Three words to sum up a healthy diet: variety, color, and flavor!
Consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day
Canada Food Guide recommends up to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for kids age 14 to 18. When you consider that nearly half of all young people don’t get this amount, five servings is an excellent goal to begin with.
What exactly is a serving?
- 1 medium-size piece of fruit (about the size of a tennis ball for round fruit)
- ½ cup (125 ml) fresh, frozen, or canned fruit or vegetables
- 1 cup (250 ml) leafy raw vegetables (e.g. spinach, lettuce) or ½ cup (125 ml) cooked
- ¼ cup (60 ml) dried fruit
- ½ cup real, unsweetened juice
There’s no need to measure and count everything! Instead, make a point of including one fruit or vegetable in each meal and snack. That way your kids will get their five servings a day with no problem!
Learn all about recommended daily servings for each food group according to age Canada’s Food Guide .
Encourage kids to drink water
The best thirst quencher for kids is water. Soft drinks and other sweetened beverages should not be given on a regular basis. Why?
First, because these drinks do not make you feel full. In other words, they offer very little in the way of nutritional elements that satisfy hunger, providing only empty calories that are added on top of calories consumed with meals and snacks. They also contain large amounts of sugar, which can cause tooth decay in children. Some soft drinks and most energy drinks also contain caffeine.
Sweetened beverages include cocktail, punch, nectar, store-bought iced tea, lemonade, soft drinks, and energy drinks like Red Bull and others.
What about “real” juice made with 100% fruit? While such juices are a better choice, children should drink them in moderation, i.e., no more than one serving (125 ml) a day. Fruit juice, like other sweet beverages, provides liquid calories that don’t make you feel full.
Eat meals as a family
Numerous studies have found that meals eaten as a family are often healthier than those eaten alone or when on the go. Researchers have found that family meals tend to be more conducive to the consumption of fruits and vegetables, grain products, and calcium-rich foods. They are also an opportunity to strengthen family ties and improve communications. While it’s not always easy to juggle extracurricular activities and busy work schedules, it’s worth making an effort to make sure your family sits down to eat together at least a few times a week.
Breakfast: A fuelling stop not to be missed!
The first meal of the day provides all the energy your kids need to enjoy the day to the fullest. Whether at camp or at school, it’s Important that your children start the day with a full tummy. Breakfast, like other meals, provides an important share of essential daily nutrients.
Pressed for time or not hungry? Why not bring along a yogurt and piece of fruit for the road, and round out the morning snack with a home-baked muffin or a dry muesli-type mix?