How to Talk to Your Kids About Nutrition

ow to Teach Kids About Nutrition

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Taking the time to teach your kids about nutrition is one of the best steps you can take to help support healthy growth.

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FEB. 05, 2019   3 MIN. READ

As a parent, you want your children to have the healthiest food possible, but good nutrition for kids goes beyond what's being served at the kitchen table today. Even though your kids might need your help now, they'll be making their own decisions about food before you know it.

Jennifer Williams, MPH, pediatric nutrition research scientist with Abbott, shares how you can give them some direction for solid nutrition education. 

Keep It Age Appropriate

You know that kids' growth requires a healthy diet with plenty of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, but how do you translate that information into kid-speak?

Younger children tend to do best with simple explanations that are easy to remember. Instead of trying to explain the science, tell them that "milk helps your bones grow" or "pasta gives you the energy to run faster" and helpful reminders like "eat the colors of the rainbow" to get the vitamins you need to stay healthy. Use a helpful tool like the graphic below to help your little one understand the food groups.

Older Children

Older children can handle more detailed information, and to keep it engaging, you might focus on everyday examples that are relatable to them. Next time your child asks why you're having chicken for dinner again, you can explain that chicken is packed with protein to provide the building blocks for muscle — which could help with performance on the soccer field. When your child is fighting a cold, offer a bowl of fresh fruit and let them know that fruits and vegetables contain key antioxidants that can help their immune system.

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Snack Smart

When you're trying to steer your child toward better food choices, it can be tempting to focus only on breakfast, lunch and dinner meals, but snacks can have a big impact, too. In fact, according to recent National Health And Nutrition Examination survey data, for U.S. children, ages 2-5 years, snacks can make up about 30 percent of daily calories, and many of those snacks are often from low-nutrient snacks, desserts and candy.[1]

Help your kids make better choices throughout the day by packing their bags with snacks that provide vitamins and minerals, protein and healthy fiber. Fresh fruit and yogurt, celery with peanut butter or trail mix are all great examples of healthy snacks that kids will love. And, don't be afraid to offer the occasional treat — a good balance can help teach kids to make healthy choices down the road.

Related: Check out these tasty kids protein snack ideas!

Help Kids Cook

Kids are more likely to be interested in healthy foods if you make nutrition fun. Many kids love helping their parent's shop at the grocery store — turn it into a teachable moment and help them understand how to choose different types of food. Meal prep is also an easy way to engage kids of any age. Ask your little one to stir a bowl of pancake batter or to tear lettuce leaves for salad. Older kids can take on more complicated tasks like peeling and dicing veggies and measuring ingredients.

Involving kids in food shopping and preparation not only teaches them valuable life skills, it also helps them learn about what goes into their favorite foods. For recipe inspiration, check out these kid-friendly favorites.

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Teach Healthy Habits

Good nutrition means getting all the vitamins and minerals you need, but it also means enjoying lots of different foods. Make time for relaxed family meals that give your children the opportunity to really appreciate the food you prepare. Not only do they give you time to bond, regular meals help to establish a healthy eating schedule with a few snacks in between meals rather than grazing or eating small amounts throughout the day.

Eating together and talking about the way food tastes and what goes into it can also help kids develop a healthy relationship with food and eating. Because it takes time for fullness signals to travel from the stomach to the brain, slower, more mindful meals teach kids to tap into their sense of satiety to prevent overeating.

When it comes to nutrition for kids' growth, the most persuasive message of all may be nonverbal. Parents are a powerful influence in shaping children's food preferences and habits. If you prepare, eat and enjoy lots of nutritious foods, the chances are good that your child will eventually follow your healthy example.

Nutrients for Your Childs Brain and Eye Development

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Every parent wants their child to be healthy and one of the most important factors as children grow is good nutrition. For example, certain nutrients can help support strong bones, a healthy immune system, and so on. Three nutrients are especially important to support the developing brain and eyes: Lutein, Vitamin E, and DHA.

"These key nutrients work together to support brain and eye health," explains Abbott registered dietitian and pediatric nutrition scientist, Beth Reverri, PhD, RD. Fortunately for parents and young children, these nutrients are easy to get from breastmilk, foods, and formulas. 

Preparing for Your Adolescents Teenage Growth Spurt

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Adolescence, or the teenage years, is usually a time of major growth and development. Your child may experience a drastic change in height, accompanied by puberty milestones. These adjustments can come on quick and sometimes be surprising — for both your child and you — but the best way to mitigate any confusion is to educate your child on the changes to come.

Parents can play a large role in helping children navigate the adolescent years and become young adults. Knowing the signs of a teenage growth spurt is the first step in helping your child feel safe and supported during this time of change. 




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