8 Ways to Fuel Your Tween for Success
As school starts up again, life tends to speed up. More time is spent on the go, with children studying or participating in activities later in the evening, and rushing through meals.
As parents, we strive to help our children thrive and find success. Guiding them to begin a healthy eating pattern and a positive relationship with food will permit them to excel in all facets of their life.
Research shows that what we eat early on in life shapes brain development, metabolism, and overall health. Currently, the top three sources of calories for 2-3 year olds in the United States are milk, fruit juice and pasta (!). Yes, your child is no longer in that category, and thinking back to the toddler stage (currently my youngest is 3yo), you were probably excited if they ate anything on their plate, no matter what it was. Even if your child had an unbalanced diet when they were younger, they are not doomed to a life of poor eating habits.
Nutrition can seem very overwhelming and confusing. As a parent you do not have time to research every aspect of a meal. Here are some helpful tips to help boost their nutrition profile and ensure a lifetime of healthy, enjoyable eating:
1. When meal planning or stocking the house with food, choose whole, minimally processed foods. Pro Tip: Do not keep unhealthy choices in the house. When you are surrounded by junk, you are going to eat junk. When you are surrounded by healthy choices, you will make healthy choices.
2. Be sure to try to incorporate vegetables and fruits at every meal. Vegetables can be tough because not every child (or adult) enjoys them. Try to cook them in different ways, making them into soups or blending them into a fruit shake or serving veggies raw. Pro Tip: Strive for 5 servings of vegetables a day.
3. Involve the children in shopping, menu planning, and cooking.
4. If you feel your child is lacking nutrients, then supplementing their diet with vitamins and minerals is fine. But make sure they get most of their nutrients from varied, whole foods in their diet first.
a guide for whole food source of vitamins and minerals:
5. Hydration - water and unsweetened teas are great! Okay, water is not the most appetizing thing to drink and some children downright hate it. But throw in a couple slices of cucumber or strawberries and the water will have some great flavor. Pro Tip: Boost the whole family’s water intake with the elastic hair tie challenge. Simply take three elastic hair ties, place them around each family members water bottle. Each time you fill up the water bottle, remove an elastic hair tie.
6. Assist your tween in understanding their appetite and hunger cues. This one is a tough one for adults too. Our ability to self-regulate our food intake gets messed up through inappropriate portion sizing, eating mostly processed foods, restricting foods, labeling some foods as “bad”, and eating while rushed, distracted, or on the go. Other ways hunger cues can be ignored is by having children finish everything on their plate, bribing with sweet treats or other food items to get them to eat a vegetable or other food, having strict rules about “good’ and “bad” goods. Pro Tip: Slow down, take time to eat together as a family as often as possible. Meal time should be family time.
7. Lead by action. When I work with clients who are parents, I let them know that they are in control of creating a food-culture change in their house. It is really hard for someone to change their eating habits when they spend most of their time in an environment where it does not support the change. Pro Tip: Your children pay more attention to your actions than your words.
8. Adopt the habits yourself. Create a family activity out of it. Speak openly about challenges in changing your eating habits. Pro Tip: Transparency permits growth and change.
Below are general guidelines for daily servings:
Nutrition can be a complicated world to understand but sticking to the basics will permit you and your family to be able to adapt a diet comprised of minimally processed, whole foods. One last thing, it’s okay to go one or two days without a vegetable, but don’t make it a habit!