Written by Hailey Peirce and edited by Kaitlyn McCarty
When considering the month of August, we often think of warm weather and kids returning to school. But did you know that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also designates the month of August as “Kids Eat Right Month”? Eating a healthy diet is essential throughout our lives, but it is vital during childhood as kids are still growing and developing. Therefore, today’s blog post will focus on the importance of kids eating a healthy diet. We will also provide tips and recipes to help kids make healthier food choices!
Healthy Eating for Kids and Its Importance
Eating a healthy diet during childhood has both short-term and long-term benefits that can greatly impact a child’s life! According to the CDC, some of these benefits include:
- Helping to achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Supporting health of organs such as the brain, heart, skin, eyes and muscles
- Increasing strength of bones and teeth
- Supporting immune system and digestive system
- Supporting healthy growth and development
- Preventing chronic disease such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes
Feeding kids a healthy diet can be simple and does not have to cause any extra stress! The CDC recommends that kids eat a diet consisting of a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, a variety of protein foods, and healthy to receive the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. Read below for food ideas for each food group!
- Fruits: Apples, grapes, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, or grapefruit
- Vegetables: Carrots, celery, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, or cauliflower
- Whole grains: Whole grain breads, whole grain tortillas, whole grain pastas, or whole grain cereals
- Low fat dairy products: low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, or mozzarella cheese
- Protein foods: Chicken breast, fish, beef, pork, quinoa, or beans
- Healthy fats: Nut butters, avocado, olive oil, avocado oil, nuts, or seeds
The CDC also recommends that children limit their intake of solid fats (such as saturated and trans fats) and added sugars.
If you need more help preparing a healthy meal for your child, the US Department of Agriculture’s My Plate model is shown on the right and is an excellent resource for representing what a child’s plate should look like at every meal!
Tips to Help your Child Eat Healthier Today!
Although feeding kids a healthy diet may come with its challenges, there are things we can do to make it easier and to help children feel more engaged! Some of these tips include:
- Including your child in the process by having them help plan meals and snacks, form grocery lists, and prepare meals.
- Making your child’s favorite meals using healthier ingredients.
- Making healthy eating fun by creating games and challenges that promote consumption of healthy foods.
- Preparing healthy snacks ahead of time so that they are easy to access.
Healthy Snack Ideas
As children are often hungry between meals and after getting home from school, it is important to have some healthy and easy snack options available. Read below for some healthy snack ideas!
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Sliced carrots with hummus
- Yogurt with blueberries, bananas, or strawberries
- Sliced cheese with whole grain crackers
- Hard boiled eggs with whole grain toast and salsa
Healthy Kid-Friendly Recipes
Blue Banana Smoothie Recipe by Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN
Does your child love smoothies? Then this smoothie recipe is sure to be a hit! This Blue Banana Smoothie recipe by Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, is not only delicious but is filled with nutrients that will benefit your child’s health.
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup frozen banana slices
- ½ cup frozen blueberries
Optional Ingredient Boosts (Choose 1 or more)
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- ½ cup plain low-fat yogurt
- ¼ cup oats
- 1-2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- Honey, to taste
- Cinnamon, to taste
- Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth and serve immediately.
Easy Chicken and Vegetable Pasta Salad Recipe by Tessa Nguyen, RDN
This chicken and vegetable pasta salad recipe by Tessa Nguyen, RDN, is kid-friendly and oh-so simple. It is full of vegetables, whole grains, and protein, creating a delicious and nutrient-packed meal. Be sure to add these ingredients to your grocery list to make this recipe for your next healthy meal!
- 1 15oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
- 1 6oz can chicken breast packed in water, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
- 16oz uncooked whole grain pasta
- 1 10oz bag frozen mixed vegetables
- Bring a pot of water to boil. The amount of water should be roughly equal to a gallon. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
- Two minutes before the pasta is done cooking, add the mixed vegetables to the pot.
- While the pasta and vegetables are cooking, mix the beans, chicken breast, and salad dressing together in a large bowl until combined.
- Once the pasta is done and the vegetables are tender, drain them into a colander. Once drained, add the pasta and vegetables to the large bowl and mix with the beans, chicken, and salad dressing until combined. Serve either warm or cold.
The 4-H Youth Development program offers a program called the healthy living program. This program promotes healthy habits for youth, such as eating right and being active. To learn more about the 4-H Healthy Living Program, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.