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Providing Care: Healthy Meals for Kids

Tiffany Smith
June 2, 2017

Feeding children well in our fast-food nation



Educate yourself
You can't give children the foods they should be eating if you don't know what those foods are. Review the revised food pyramid, which tells you what foods -- and how much of them -- children need.

Review your resources
There are millions of recipes on the internet, and you don't have to look very hard to find them. KidsHealth has doctor-approved recipes for all children, and special recipes for children with diabetes, lactose intolerance, and other health problems. The websites of your favorite foodie magazines, including Everyday Food and Food & Wine, catalog recipes that have been printed in past issues and allow you to search for healthy options.

Clear your cabinets
If you're providing child care in your home, clear your cabinets of junk food. Stock only healthy snacks, such as fruits, nuts, and celery sticks. Don't use candy or chips as rewards. Instead, choose small, age-appropriate treats, such as stickers for young children and free music downloads for teens.

Put a stop to heaping helpings
Give children small meals. Spend time eating with them. Share stories as well as food. Encourage them to eat slowly and to put down their utensils between bites. If a child is still hungry, give her more food after 15-20 minutes. Remember, it will take her time to realize she's full.

Lead by example
You can't keep kids from eating sweets if you're sneaking mini chocolate bars between activities. Even if their parents don't lead by example, when children are in your care, you should.

Turn off the TV!
Don't let your charges get distracted during meals. That means no TV, video games, or eating on the go. Children (and grownups) need to pay attention to subtle signals from their bodies to ensure they're not mindlessly overeating.

You don't need to be a dietitian on top of your regular duties, but you do need to realize that you can positively impact a child's eating habits, and, ultimately, her lifestyle.

Fast fact
Between the ages of 2 and 5, a child will start to need less fat in her diet. By the time she is 5, no more than 30 percent of her calories should come from fat.

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