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July 8, 2020

A Parents’ Guide to Healthier Eating

Six ways to create healthy eating habits for your kids

Healthy eating is essential for a child’s mental and physical development. Getting kids to eat healthily is a battle most parents face. Some kids are picky eaters. Our busy schedules mean it’s easier to swing by a fast food place, as well.

If your child has been diagnosed with a physical, developmental, or behavioral condition, a good diet is even more important. Experts even suggest that diet can help improve symptoms associated with ADHD and even autism.

Here is a guide to creating healthy eating habits for your child.

Why diet matters

It’s important to understand the relationship between food and health. It’s really about a balanced diet that provides the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. These nutrients help growing bodies and brains develop. In return, your child will do better in school, have fewer behavior problems, and get sick less often.

Healthy eating can also ward off the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. This can lead to serious health consequences and chronic diseases, including high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and asthma.

What nutrients does a child need?

Your child’s diet should be designed to ensure that he/she gets the nutrients he/she needs for proper development. All nutrients are important, but some are essential to better health.

  1. Calcium and vitamin D: These aid normal growth and help build strong bones. Vitamin D also helps support the immune system so your child can fight off illness.

  2. Iron: This is essential for brain and cognitive development.

  3. Omega-3 DHA: This also helps support normal brain function.

Foods that provide essential vitamins and other nutrients include:

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Whole grains (brown rice, whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta)

  • Beans and lentils

  • Lean meat and fish

  • Nuts and seeds

Six ways to build healthy eating habits

1. Introduce healthy foods early on

Once your child has advanced to eating solid foods, you can start developing healthy eating habits. Fix a plate that includes all of the food groups, making sure to include plenty of vegetables, fruit, and lean protein.

You will soon learn which foods your child prefers. After a while, your child will develop a taste and appreciation for vegetables and fruit. You’re less likely to get complaints about “not liking” something, too.

2. Keep healthy foods on hand

The best way to avoid the temptation of cookies, chips, and soda is to keep them out of the house. That’s not to say your kids should never have junk food, but you should limit how much they eat.

Keep a ready stock of healthy snacks on hand, including carrot sticks, cheese, apples, strawberries, bananas, and nuts.

3. Play the rainbow game

Eating a rainbow means making a plate filled with different colored foods. Having a variety of colors on the plate ensures that your child will get the variety of nutrients they need.

To help in this effort, play a game and see how many different colors your child can get onto a plate at each meal. For instance, a dinner that includes chicken, mixed vegetables, strawberries, and blueberries would count.

4. Teach smart snacking

Snacking is one area that can really lead to trouble, especially if it happens a lot. Too much snacking between meals and your child won’t be hungry at mealtime. The typical snacks of cookies, chips, and other sugary treats can also a problem, as they contain little nutritional value.

Of course, your child may get hungry between meals, so devise a snack schedule. Make sure you give nutritious snacks, too, such as fruit, carrots, yogurt, cheese, and nuts (if there are no allergies).

5. Avoid fast food

Fast food is convenient. Most children are involved in multiple activities after school, from sports to dance and clubs. It’s easy to hit a drive-thru on the way. Unfortunately, fast food is generally loaded with sugar and bad fats. Eating too much of it can seriously affect your child’s health in the long run.

6. Give your child some choice

Even picky eaters can usually find something they like that is also good for them. Let them choose what they want from a list of “pre-approved” vegetables, fruit, protein, and healthy carbs.

This gives children some say in what they eat, so they are less likely to reject food at mealtimes.

A good diet can be the building block of better health

Whether your child has issues with a developmental disorder or not, he or she can definitely benefit from learning healthy eating habits. This will set them up to be healthier adults who may avoid chronic illnesses like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and even certain cancers. It may even help improve symptoms related to their condition overall brain function.

If you need help coming up with healthier eating plan, consult with your child’s pediatrician and seek a recommendation for a nutritionist or registered dietician.

Does your child struggle with sensory issues or have trouble with oral/motor issues that inhibit chewing or swallowing? This can also affect your child’s nutrition. Our speech and occupational therapists are trained to assist children overcome physical or developmental issues that make mealtimes a challenge for everyone.

We also provide comprehensive therapy and treatment so your child can achieve traditional milestones.

Our services include:

  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Developmental therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • ABA therapy – Applied Behavior Analysis for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Social work
  • Augmentative alternative communication
  • Early intervention
  • Teletherapy

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians works to improve the lives of children and their families.

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