Mothers — those who stay at home with the kids and those who go to work outside the home — get criticized for just about everything. Whether it’s about breastfeeding, giving kids screen time, their choice of preschool, sharing parental leaves, and what have you — mothers get the brunt of it all.
Regarding kids’ nutrition, mothers — especially working moms — worry about whether they’re doing enough. Now, let us get this out of the way. You are worried if you are doing enough for your kids because you are a mother who cares. So cut yourself some slack, and read on as we give tips on ensuring a healthy diet for your children while also being awesome at work.
What do kids need nutritionally?
It follows the same principle as adult nutrition. Kids need the same things — carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. So when shopping and preparing food for kids, make sure that they are packed with nutrients:
- Protein. Eggs, beans, soy products, beans, nuts, and seeds. As for meat, choose seafood and lean meats as much as possible.
- Vegetables. The more colorful, the better. Choose different colors of vegetables every week. If you are buying canned vegetables, choose those with the least sodium.
- Fruits. Encourage your kids to eat fresh, canned, dried, or frozen fruit. If you’re buying canned fruits, choose those packed in their own juice, so they’re lower in sugar.
- Grains. Choose whole-wheat grains, such as pasta and bread, oats, popcorn, quinoa, and brown rice.
- Dairy. Give them as much as possible low-fat dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese.
Avoid giving them too much of the following:
- Added sugar. Brown sugar, corn syrup, corn sweetener, and honey — these are added sugar. Watch for added sugar in cereals, and avoid sodas and other sugary drinks.
- Sodium. There is salt in almost everything. So, check the sodium content in bread, toppings, condiments, etc. Encourage snacking on fruits instead of chips and cookies.
- Saturated fats. Red meat, butter, hotdogs, and poultry are sources of high saturated fats. Pizza, burgers, cakes, and ice cream, too.
How can you ensure a healthy diet for your children?
Model good behavior
Children will more likely imitate what they see us do rather than what we tell them to do. If you want your kids to lead healthy lives, you must do it yourself. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself and make sure that you also eat well regularly. Preparing meals ahead of time is the way to go. The following tips are all about meal prep.
Consider your cooking style and your schedule. For example, you can’t make it a goal to prepare meals twice a week if you only have the weekend off. Or plan to cook meals that require a lot of baking if you’re not very fond of baking. You might end up getting overwhelmed and not be able to see your plans through. So, decide on the frequency of meal preparation — are you going to prepare a month’s worth of meals, or is weekly more like your speed? Either way, pick a day and time allotted just for preparing meals for the whole family.
Involve the whole family in shopping
Make this a family affair. You are a team with a goal: a healthier way to eat. Have your partner and kids list dishes they like every two weeks or so and put that in rotation. Your kids must be involved in grocery shopping, too. Show them the types of food you put in the cart. Then, before heading out, involve them in making the grocery list to set their expectations that your cart will mostly be filled with healthy items.
Prepare and cook with the family
Make your meal prep and cooking an enjoyable activity for the whole family. Enlist the help of your partner and older children in meal preparation and cooking before dinner. Younger kids love the messy part of cooking, so give them something to stir in a bowl or some eggs to crack while sitting on their high chair. This is also an excellent time to ask them what they want to see on the menu the following week.
Make snacks healthier
Suppose your kids love junk food, especially after school. You can slowly eliminate this habit by always having healthy snacks ready for them at home. Whether fresh or dried fruits or fruits and veggies in yogurts, make them accessible to them after school at all times. You can set up rules like no junk food on weekdays. This way, junk food stops being a regular part of their diet.
Ensuring a healthy diet for your children also means leading a healthy diet yourself. Then, your kids will pick up on your habits and take your lead. So, making it a habit to prepare healthy meals — and involving them in the whole process — is a great way to lead a healthy lifestyle as a family.