Healthy eating and physical activity help children grow, learn and build strong bones and muscles. As a parent or caregiver, you have a great opportunity to be a role model of positive behaviours and a healthy lifestyle.
Healthy food choices and regular physical activity may help children to maintain a healthy weight and prevent health problems including type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adults, but increasing numbers of overweight children and teens are being diagnosed with this chronic disease.
Benefits of eating well
- Good health
- More energy
- Healthy body weight
- Lower risk of disease
- Improved concentration
- Strong heart, muscles and bones
Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide suggests that everyone eat a wide variety of foods, including vegetables and fruit, whole grains, lower fat dairy products, and lean meats, beans or lentils daily. Children learn by watching and doing, so set a good example. Eat healthy meals and snacks with your children and participate in fun activities together. Use the following tips to encourage healthy habits.
Good nutrition habits
Helping children learn about healthy eating and healthy choices can lead to a lifetime of good nutrition habits.
- Encourage children to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.
- Plan regular family meals – healthy eating habits begin at home.
- Focus on small, gradual changes in eating to create healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
- Encourage healthy, balanced eating for children; avoid diets.
- Allow children to enjoy a favourite high fat/sugar food occasionally, in limited portions.
- Avoid using food as a reward or punishment.
- Keep the TV off during meals and avoid snacking in front of the screen.
- Talk to a Registered Dietitian if you are concerned about your child’s eating habits or weight.
Healthy eating tips
- Start the day with a healthy breakfast.
- Get your kids cooking – they usually like to eat what they make.
- Serve veggies, fruit or yogurt for after-school snacks.
- Offer water, lower fat milk (1 or 2%) instead of pop and other sugary drinks.
- Offer whole fruit – it has more fibre. Limit 100% fruit juices to ½ cup (125 mL) per day.
- Choose wisely when eating out – avoid meal deals and super-sizing.
- Introduce one new food or a new vegetable each week.
- Limit high-calorie snacks such as candy, chocolate and chips.