We’ve all been told not to play with our food, but that doesn’t mean that learning about food can’t be fun. Eating healthy is important to learn at any age. Invite your kids to help you at the store and in the kitchen and talk about what makes some choices healthier than others. Discuss healthy alternatives to their favorite foods and then experiment! Here are some heart-healthy guidelines from the American Heart Association on the right way to play:
Choose what’s in play
Encourage kids and adults to “eat their colors.” This game works well with younger kids. Food that’s bland in color often also lacks nutrients. Eating a variety of brightly colored foods provides more nutrients in greater variety.
Introducing healthier elements into foods that your child already likes. For example, offer blueberry pancakes, carrot muffins, fruit slices over a favorite cereal, chunks of bell pepper in a potato salad, or shredded veggies over rice.
Have heart healthy finger foods available. Kids like to pick up foods, so give them foods they can handle. Fruit and veggie chunks (raw or cooked) are great finger-food options. If the chips and cookies aren’t around, your kids can’t eat them.
Don’t cut out treats altogether. Think moderation. A scoop of ice cream or a serving of Oreos is all right occasionally—but easier to portion out if you don’t keep them in the house. If you cut out all the goodies, your kids will be more likely to overeat when they do get them.
Pick the time and place
Eat at the dinner table, not in front of the TV. Eating as a family is a great time to catch up, and you’re likely to eat less when you’re not distracted.
Schedule snack time and stick to it. Most kids like routine, and if they know they’ll only get food at certain times, they’ll eat what they get when they get it. Try to have snacks incorporate two food groups.