Celebrate Kids Eat Right Month!!

Julia Jarrell, RDN, LD

August is Kids Eat Right Month, but how do you help your kids “eat right?” With all the conflicting information on social media, it can be complicated to sort through it all. Luckily, sometimes the simplest answer is best! Follow these three tips to make sure your kids are on the right track to lead healthy, happy lives.
1. Provide a unified message. Most schools teach USDA’s MyPlate, which is a simple way to make a healthy meal every time you make a plate. Reiteration is the key here and since children are being taught MyPlate at school, imagine how much more effective and impactful it will be if they hear the same message at home. Bonus! MyPlate is a great tool for adults to use, also! Find out more at ChooseMyPlate.gov.

2. Be a role model. You must model the behaviors you expect your children to exhibit. Trying new foods and making healthy choices are learned behaviors. Additionally, it is important to avoid discussing negative food preferences because that can influence your kids to not try new healthy foods. Children should not be taught there a good foods versus bad foods, as this can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Rather, using terms like “sometimes foods” and “everyday foods” may help your kids understand how to make the best choices. When you are demonstrating healthy choices in your life, keep the discussion positive so that your kids will, also.

3. Offer Guidance. Advocating for balance, variety and moderation will instill better life long habits than focusing on diets and calories. Balance the “everyday foods” with the “sometimes foods” chosen on occasion. Eat a variety of foods to receive all nutrients. This includes fruits/vegetables (eat as many colors as possible), protein sources (fish, chicken, beef, nuts and seeds) and fat sources (fish, nuts, oils and avocados)! And finally, moderation- are you promoting your kids to eat appropriate amounts of all foods? Even healthy foods can be overdone.

Eating right is only half of the puzzle. Children should aim for 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Just like with food, consider trying new physical activity like gardening. Gardening can be a great way to increase exposure and acceptability to fruits and vegetables!
Teaching children about nutrition does not have to be complicated. With a little help from MyPlate and a focus on guiding your kids, you will direct them on a path to make “eating right” easy!