The Ultimate Parent Guide to Feeding Kids: How to Ensure Kids Eat Healthy and Nutritious Foods

In today’s busy world, making sure your kids eat healthy foods can feel like a real challenge at times. But don’t worry – we’ve created this ultimate parent guide to feeding kids nutritious meals. A balanced diet is key to helping your children grow strong, think clearly, and feel their best. In this article, you’ll find practical tips, tasty snack ideas, and helpful strategies for even the pickiest eaters. With these tools, you’ll feel confident in providing healthy foods your kids will love, no matter how hectic life gets.


Fun Facts for Kids: What Happens When Kids Eat Healthy and Nutritious Foods


Jump Higher with Leafy Greens

Just one cup of leafy green vegetables every day can help you jump higher, according to researchers. Kids who eat these healthy foods daily benefit from stronger leg muscles.


Read better with Omega-3s

Reading skills seem to improve with a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, according to studies. Fatty fish are a valuable source of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), as are algal-based supplements.


Stronger Bones with Nuts

Almonds and other foods high in magnesium play a role in bone health. Research shows that the amount of magnesium a child consumes influences how dense their little bones are.


Grow Big with Vitamin A

Essential for growth, kids who lack vitamin A can experience stunted growth and impaired vision.


The Importance of Nutritious Foods for Children

Kids are growing and learning at lightning speed, so they need plenty of good nutrition to keep up. Eating the right foods helps them build strong bones, support brain development, maintain a healthy weight, and set the stage for lifelong healthy eating habits. On the flip side, poor nutrition can lead to issues like obesity, developmental delays, and trouble in school. This parent guide to feeding kids highlights how crucial it is to include nutritious foods in their daily diet, ensuring they thrive both now and in the future.


The Science of Kids’ Nutrition

When it comes to feeding kids, understanding the science behind their nutritional needs can make a big difference. Kids need a good balance of nutrients to grow and stay healthy:

  • Carbohydrates give them the energy they need for school and play.
  • Proteins help build and repair muscles.
  • Healthy fats are super important for brain development and overall cell function.
  • Fiber helps with digestion and fuels the gut microbiome known to influence mood and support a healthy immune system. Unhealthy gut microbiomes are associated with autism, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, asthma, and allergies.
  • Vitamins and minerals are key players in your child’s diet. When kids don’t get enough of these nutrients, they can face problems like slower growth, learning difficulties, and getting sick more often.



Feeding Kids: Top Nutrients Kids Don’t Get Enough Of

The most common nutrients Canadian kids lack and where to find them.


Children (1-8  years)

  • Vitamin D (salmon, mushrooms, sunlight)
  • Calcium (yogurt, beans, edamame, tofu, leafy greens)
  • Potassium (dates, bananas, potato with skin, tomato paste)
  • Fibre (raspberries, pears, green peas, broccoli, lentils, whole wheat pasta)
  • Omega-3 (Fish, nuts, seeds, fortified foods)


Adolescents (9-18 years)

  • Magnesium (pumpkin seeds, almonds, chia seeds, peanuts, edamame)
  • Vitamin A (cantaloupe, mangos, apricots, fish, green leafy vegetables, eggs)
  • Phosphorous (legumes, nuts, dairy, meats, seafood, whole grains)
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • Omega-3



Feeding Kids Healthy Food: Strategies for Busy Parents


  1. Tips on Healthy and Nutritious Snacks for Kids

When life is busy, these little tips and tricks can make it easier to feed kids healthy foods. Busy parents lean on pre-packaged, convenience foods because – well, they are convenient! Healthy food can be convenient too. Here’s how:


Prep in Batches: Prepare snacks and components of meals in large batches. Chop vegetables, cook grains, and portion out snacks for the week during the weekend. This will save you time during busy weekdays.


Healthy Grab-and-Go Options: Keep a stash of healthy grab-and-go options like pre-washed fruits, nuts, or whole-grain crackers. Having these on hand can prevent the temptation of reaching for less healthy convenience foods.


Small Containers: The secret to making healthy snacks for kids easy is having lots of small containers on hand. You’ll quickly find it’s easy, and only takes one minute to rinse a handful of crunchy grapes, or slice a pear, stuff it into a container, and go. Better yet, fill a few containers with nutritious foods your kids love to create your own convenient, healthy snacks.


Lunchbox Tips: Make lunchboxes fun and balanced. Include a variety of foods to keep things interesting. Bento-style lunchboxes with different compartments can make it easy to pack balanced meals. Try to include 3 fruits and/or vegetables (one for each recess and lunch). For better success at getting kids to eat healthy and nutritious foods, let kids choose which fruits/vegetables go into the lunch box. Why? They know which are easiest to eat and most enjoyable, ultimately increasing the likelihood they will actually consume it.



  1. Tips for Providing Healthy and Nutritious Meals Kids Will Love

Here are tips to guide busy parents on feeding kids healthy and nutritious foods:


Plan Ahead: Meal planning can save time and ensure that you have healthy options available. Spend some time each week planning meals and snacks. This helps in avoiding last-minute fast food runs or unhealthy snacking.


Involve Your Kids: Engage your children in the meal preparation process. When kids have a hand in making their food, they are more likely to eat it. Kids can pick out fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or help with simple tasks in the kitchen. Let them explore to raise an adventurous eater.


Make Meals Colorful: A colourful plate is not only visually appealing but also a sign of nutritional variety. Different colours often mean different nutrients. Encourage a rainbow diet by including red tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow peppers, green spinach, blue blueberries, and purple eggplants.


Healthy Swaps: Make healthier versions of your child’s favorite meals. Use whole-grain pasta instead of white pasta, bake instead of fry, and use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.


Stay Hydrated: Encourage your children to drink water instead of sugary drinks. Water is essential for their bodily functions and helps maintain a healthy weight.


Balance the Plate: Ensure every meal includes protein, whole grains, and fruits or vegetables. For example, a dinner could include grilled chicken (protein), quinoa (whole grain), and a mixed salad (vegetables). If you have a picky eater, their plate may be chicken, some whole grain crackers, and a few sliced bell peppers or cucumbers – that’s okay too!


Provide and They Decide: Keep offering easy-to-eat healthy and nutritious foods to your kids. It might be sliced raw vegetables they can eat with their hands, or cooked broccoli with cheese on top. You provide and then let them decide what they eat. This may mean their meal does not look like a traditional plate. Letting kids choose which healthy foods are on their plates fosters a more positive relationship with healthy foods than being forced to finish your plate.



  1. Nutritious Snacks: Why They Matter

Snacks are an essential part of a child’s diet, providing the energy needed between meals and contributing to overall nutrient intake. Nutritious snacks can help children maintain their energy levels, support their growth, and improve their concentration and performance in school. Here are some convenient, nutritious snacks that can serve as healthier alternatives to popular fish-shaped crackers, and align with the parent guide to feeding kids:


  1. Fresh Fruit: An apple, banana, or a handful of berries can be both satisfying and packed with vitamins and fiber.


  1. Vegetable Sticks with Hummus: Carrot sticks, cucumber slices, or bell pepper strips with a serving of hummus make a crunchy and tasty snack full of vitamins and healthy fats.


  1. Yogurt with Berries and Nuts: Plain Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey, frozen or fresh berries, and a sprinkle of nuts offers protein for their active muscles, fats for long-lasting fuel, and probiotics for digestive and immune support.


  1. Cheese and Whole Grain Crackers: A slice of cheese with some whole grain crackers is a calcium-rich snack that provides protein and fiber.


  1. Homemade Trail Mix: Mix nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and a few dark chocolate chips for a portable and nutrient-dense snack.


  1. Smoothies: Blend your child’s favorite fruits with some leafy greens like spinach or kale, and a bit of yogurt or milk for a delicious and nutrient-packed drink.


  1. Nut Butter and Apple Slices: Slices of apple with a spread of almond or peanut butter are both sweet and savory, offering vitamins and healthy fats.


  1. Hard-Boiled Eggs: A simple, protein-rich snack that can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.



How to Feed Kids Healthy Foods: 5 Strategies for Picky Eaters


You take time to cut and prepare vegetables, only to be rejected by your child. It’s such a frustrating process – no wonder so many parents avoid this stressful scenario.

Mounting evidence supports the following 6 strategies to support healthy eating in children:


  1. Exposure – Kids eat more fruits and vegetables if they are readily available. Keep a variety of fruits and vegetables (in forms kids can grab and go).


  1. Familiarity Evidence shows building a child’s familiarity with a food increases their willingness to try new fruits and vegetables. From picture books to a bowl of fruit on the table, there are a variety of ways you can enhance your kids’ familiarity with healthy foods.


  1. Be a Role Model – Children mimic their parents’ behaviors. By eating a variety of healthy foods yourself, you set a positive example for your kids. A parent’s vegetable intake has a positive impact on a child’s likelihood to consume them, shows research.


  1. Encouragement and Praise – Evidence shows there is a positive effect of appropriate rewards, such as praise (as opposed to bribes and food rewards) on a child’s likelihood of eating healthy foods.


  1. Positive Emotion – Keep healthy eating fun. Let them experiment in the kitchen and on their plate. Young kids love to play with food – why not create a funny face with vegetables on your plate? Offer the nutritious foods your kids love often to ensure healthy eating feels like a positive experience. If your child refuses to try something new, don’t turn it into a negative experience – simply offer it again another time.


  1. Consistency – Establish regular meal and snack times to help your children understand when to expect food. This routine can prevent overeating and help manage hunger.


  1. Limit Junk Food: While it’s okay to have treats occasionally, try to limit the availability of junk food at home. A bag of potato chips is easier to open than to slice an apple – kids will choose the more convenient item every time. Instead, stock your pantry with healthier alternatives and take steps to ensure healthy foods are convenient.


  1. Educate: Teach your children about the benefits of healthy eating. Help them understand why nutritious food is important. Keep it simple, such as fruits give them energy to run faster at the park, or nuts help their muscles grow so they can jump higher. Older kids can be educated about how fiber can help them digestively, or how leafy greens help prevent their muscles from cramping during their favourite sport.



Ensure Kids Eat Healthy and Nutritious Foods


Feeding kids healthy and nutritious food is a journey that involves planning, creativity, and a bit of effort. However, the rewards are immense, setting the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. By incorporating these tips and strategies into your daily routine, you can ensure that your kids not only eat well but, also enjoy the process. Remember, every small step towards healthier eating counts and can make a significant difference in your child’s overall health and development. You’ve got this!


Learn How to Feed Kids Healthy and Nutritious Foods: Courses


At the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, you’ll find a variety of programs and online courses to help enhance your confidence, skills, and knowledge of how to feed kids healthy and nutritious foods to optimize their growth and development. From Pediatric Lifestyle Nutrition to Holistic Culinary Workshops, come explore and develop the skills needed to feed kids healthy and nutritious foods in our busy modern lives.




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