These past few years have been a real doozy for much of, well, the world. As an adult, the isolation, fear and anxiety of the unknown was at times almost crippling. Now imagine the toll it has taken on our children who do not have the mental maturity to shoulder the weight that COVID-19 has handed them. Building their confidence is a way we can help our children heal from the effects of the past few years. One way we can do that is through nutrition education.
Teaching our kids what a healthy, balanced diet looks like is an essential tool we can give them to boost their immune system, support their mental health and help combat chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Since children learn their eating habits early on, we’re able to teach our kids healthy habits that will stick with them as they get older.
Our body requires many nutrients to run effectively. The three macronutrients necessary for our bodies are fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Healthy fats, such as those found in avocado or olive oil, support brain function. Lean proteins, like those contained in chicken, fish, eggs and nuts, help build muscle. Complex carbohydrates, common in brown rice and starchy vegetables, provide long-lasting energy.
Forming healthy habits starts at a young age. Some suggestions for ways to teach your children about eating a healthy, balanced diet include the following:
Lead by example
Let your kids see you love yourself enough to provide your body with the foods that will nourish you throughout the day. Show them that you can still enjoy the foods you love in moderation.
Be adventurous with fruits and vegetables
Teach your kids from an early age that fruits and vegetables are our friends. Be adventurous and try new things. If they hesitate at first, get creative and incorporate fruits and vegetables into smoothies, sauces or soups.
No screen time during mealtime
Watching the TV or tablets while eating encourages mindless eating and prevents kids’ bodies from picking up on natural cues signaling they are full. Try engaging with your kids and ask them about their favorite or challenging part of the day.
Make eating healthy fun
Encourage your kids to help pick colorful items at the store or assist you with creating the shopping list or menu for the week. Give your kids the independence to choose what snacks they’ll bring to school, such as peppers with hummus, yogurt with fruit, guacamole with cucumbers or cheese with whole-grain crackers.
Eating a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet can aid in the prevention of illness, mental stress, fatigue and low self-esteem. Teaching our children to be mindful about their health and well-being now may help prevent several challenges in their future.
Katharine Galvas is a Certified Nutrition Coach (CNC) and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). She works for the YMCA of Frederick County at the Natelli Family Y as a personal trainer and teaches a Nutrition Plus class that combines her two loves of nutrition and fitness.