Nutrition for Kids: Tips for Parents
By Lane Dailey, Nutritionist at ClubSport Pleasanton
Aaah, Grandma’s spaghetti sauce, hot chicken soup, chips and salsa, grilled cheese and tomato soup with goldfish on top … comfort foods are a wonderful thing and we can all name a quick handful of our favorites, accompanied by a childhood memory of love to go with it. Flash forward and it’s our turn to create those associations for our children, those comforting foods that they will forever return to when they crave an emotional hug or celebration. This is a huge opportunity to provide a healthful choice for our kids that will last a lifetime and, with enough intention, we can make a big difference in their adult lives.
As a mom of three and a registered dietitian, I’ve had to do a lot of thinking about how to provide them with great nutrition and, just as importantly, great associations to healthy foods. After years of practice, here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. Never discuss calories, “fat,” or “fattening” at the table.
Foods should be labeled as strong or weak and you can have plenty of conversation around colors, food groups, likes, and dislikes, but do not discuss body image or weight concerns at the table. Instead, to create positive associate at mealtime, talk about how carrots can improve your vision or how chicken gives you muscle power.
2. Stick to the old saying of “Not under my roof.”
The world is a big place with lots of unhealthy foods at your child’s disposal, but don’t let those foods into your house because once they’re in your pantry, they become a part of the comfort that they know. Does this mean they can never have cookies, chips, ice cream, or soda? No. But your kids can get them somewhere else, just not at the home table.
3. Keep it simple and consistent.
You don’t need a bunch of recipes to feed your family well; just stick with the basics and ensure that each meal has a vegetable and a protein, and the other stuff is the side dish. Kids get used to this and will then associate meals to have veggies and protein, a major part of growing healthily and thriving in adulthood. It will get to the point that if you give them a plate without vegetables, they wonder why they aren’t getting a meal.
Create the comfort foods that will provide a lifetime of health for you and your family. It’s an investment of time and energy that will pay off for generations.
Lane Dailey is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist with eight years of personal nutrition consulting experience. Previously in New York, she grew a Nutrition Wellness Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell, focusing on pediatric and adult weight management with a wide range of clinical specialties including diabetes, gestational diabetes, cardiology, and oncology.