You can still make healthy meals a habit even with the busy pace of parenting.
It boils down to these three tips:
- Serve more whole foods and less processed food.
- Eat fruits and vegetables with every meal.
- Serve your children healthy, lean protein at most meals.
One of the best ways to do this is to cook meals at home more often. Reach for the foods that don't come with a long nutrition label, such as broccoli, spinach, apples, brown rice, whole grains, fresh fish, nuts, or beans.
It all starts with what goes into your shopping cart.
Fiber fills you up and is good for digestion, blood sugar levels, heart health, and weight management. You'll find it in plant-based foods such as:
- Vegetables (fresh, frozen, and canned)
- Fruits (fresh, frozen, and canned)
- Beans (dried, canned)
- Edamame (soybeans, fresh or frozen)
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole-grain cereal (hot and cold)
- 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain bread products
- Whole-grain blend pastas
- Whole-grain crackers
- Whole-wheat tortillas
Many kids don't get enough potassium, which they need for their nervous system, muscle function, and water balance.
Good sources of potassium include:
- Leafy green vegetables (such as beet greens, Swiss chard, broccoli)
- Orange juice
- Prunes and prune juice
- Potatoes with skin
- Beans and peas, including lima beans
- Fish, shellfish, and clams
- Low-fat and fat-free dairy
- Nuts (including almonds, brazil nuts, peanuts, soy nuts, and pistachios)
Include lean protein in almost every meal your kids eat.
Good sources include:
- Reduced-fat cheese
- Lean meat
- Skinless poultry
- Low-fat milk
- Soybeans and soybean products
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
Be Choosy About Fats
Your child needs some fat in their diet, just not too much. Some types of fat are better choices than others.
Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, help brain development in babies and young children. Compared to saturated fats, omega-3s and monounsaturated fats may help your body stay more sensitive to insulin, making diabetes less likely.
These foods are excellent sources of omega-3s or monounsaturated fat:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, anchovies
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Ground flaxseed
- Products that use liquid olive oil or canola oil (certain margarines, salad dressings, bottled or prepared sauces, and baked goods, for example)
Read Food Labels
Cooking is great. But for most families, it's not realistic to cook everything, at every meal, from scratch.
When you buy processed foods, check the Nutrition Facts label and choose items that are lower in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
A food is considered "low" if a single serving provides 5% or less of the daily limit for sugar, saturated fat, or sodium.
Foods are considered "high" if a serving provides 20% or more of each nutrient.