Disclaimer: Taher uses nutritionists on staff to make sure each meal we provide meets the highest standard of nutritional needs for the students we serve.
In Childhood Nutrition, What Matters Most?
Kids can be picky eaters, making early childhood nutrition difficult for parents and caregivers. How do we fix it? What foods should we focus on when we actually get them to eat?
Luckily getting them to eat can be accomplished easily.
Prepare For Battle
If your child is like many others, they begin early childhood by becoming a “Threenager”. They may suddenly stop eating foods they once liked, “No!” becomes a favorite word, and they generally have huge amounts of energy. Be ready for them to sit down and have a regular family meal. A general rule of thumb is to half of their plate to be vegetables. Include whole grain bread instead of processed grains when serving sandwiches (be sure to ask the child how they want the sandwich cut, for reasons that will be made clear later). Have nuts, lean meat or eggs (cooked properly) as protein sources for them.
How To Cook For A Young Child
When it comes to early childhood nutrition, how you cook is just as important as what you cook.
Boiling Is Bad
Don’t boil vegetables. It can leach out very valuable nutrients from the vegetables. Try steaming them instead. Many store-bought frozen vegetables have the option to purchase them as “Steam in the bag”. If you don’t have the option for that or have fresh vegetables (which you should be buying more of anyway, not just for the little ones in your family but you as well), use a colander or steam basket and a pot of boiling water.
Times for different vegetables:
- Spinach – 3-5 minutes
- Zucchini – 4-6 minutes
- Carrots – 8-10 minutes
- Broccoli – 8-10 minutes
- Green Beans – 18-20 minutes
- Potatoes – about 20 minutes
Deep frying in oil can add unnecessary fats to vegetables or anything you cook in it. Here are some other, healthier options to frying.
- Roasting. It’s a great way to cook vegetables and can give them new and different flavors that you may not have tasted from these vegetables before.
- Grilling. It’s as close as we usually get to cooking over an open fire as our ancestors did. You can grill anything! Onions, carrots, peppers, and even lettuce!
- Microwave. For most frozen vegetables, this is the fastest and easiest option.
What Else Can I Do?
If your child is still disinterested in eating healthy, there are a few things you can do.
Making Food Time Fun
Turn supper into story time. Tell them about where the food came from, especially in winter. Explain that food comes from all over the country and all over the world to get to their supermarket. Tell them about food careers like bakers or chefs.
Include them in the cooking process. Show them how to stir sauces, steam or roast vegetables, or if you have a budding scientist explain to them how microwaves work.
Most importantly, sit down to a meal with them. Sitting down to a meal with the family unit promotes conversational skills, healthy eating habits, promotes healthy cognitive development, and a general decrease in high-risk behavior.
Making Sure They Eat Well At School
After sending your little one to school, how do you make sure they eat well? Other than packing a lunch for them, what can you do to make sure that they are served the best possible nutritious food?
Check their school lunch menu daily. Don’t necessarily rely on your child to give a detailed account of what they had for lunch. Check to see if they have a nutritionist on staff or someone responsible for nutrition for the school or district. Taher uses nutritionists on staff to make sure each meal we provide meets the highest standard of nutritional needs for the students we serve. Learn more about our nutrition efforts here.
See that the school or district is following generally the same nutritional structure you would at home. Continue having discussions with those in charge about what sort of nutritional guidelines they are using and make sure they are continuing to adhere to the highest standards.