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It’s important for children to eat well in order to get all the nutrients they need to grow and develop. Eating well and being active every day can also help kids have a healthy weight. In Canada, overweight and obesity among children and teens is increasing. And so, health problems related to being overweight are now happening at a much earlier age. And being overweight or obese later in life increases the risk of certain cancers.
We know it isn’t always easy to fit healthy food choices into busy days. With a little effort, healthy choices will become regular choices. Helping your kids eat well now will make them more likely to eat well as they get older. Making healthy eating choices yourself is a good way to begin. Start small and be patient. You may have to introduce your kids to a new food many times before they decide to try it.
Another good strategy is to involve your children when making food choices at the grocery store. For example, start by asking them to pick out a vegetable or fruit. Talk to them about why they chose it and let them try it as a snack or suggest how to use it at mealtime. You can also use a shopping trip to show them how reading food labels is a good way to make healthy food choices. Major grocery stores and local community centres in many cities offer special cooking classes for children – sign yours up if they’re interested! (You might even get out of cooking dinner!)
- Set regular times for meals and healthy snacks. Kids tend to snack more when there’s no real schedule and are more likely to reach for sugary or salty treats.
- Plan to eat at least one meal together as a family every day. If this seems impossible with a busy activity schedule, be creative. Try a picnic after a game or practice. Or set aside one night a week as family dinner night.
- Encourage your child to eat slowly. When we eat too quickly, our body thinks it needs more food to feel full.
- Get the kids involved when you’re cooking. They can help with simple tasks like washing the vegetables, stirring soup or putting toppings on pizza.
- Remind kids to drink fluids, preferably water, throughout the day. Young children are at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated. Save drinks like pop and juice for special occasions.