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Proper Diet for a Healthy Child

Children in today’s society are not getting high enough levels of nutrition, especially fiber.  Unfortunately, because of busy lifestyles, children are often fed diets loaded with carbohydrates and fats.  While some carbohydrates and fats are needed in a diet, fiber is even more important.  In addition to adding more vitamins and minerals to the diet, plants such as fruits and vegetables have a number of other benefits.

• Fiber makes a person feel fuller, which means the body consumes more vitamins and minerals but without extra calories.
• Plants in the diet also help by reducing high cholesterol
• Fiber is excellent for protecting children against diabetes

The bottom line is that the more plants you can incorporate into your child’s diet the healthier he or she will be.  Now, we all know that many children baulk at the thought of eating fruits and vegetables but using the right recipes, you can make these foods taste good.  In fact, there are ways of adding plants to normal recipes without the child even knowing.  Two great examples are meatloaf and chili.  In both cases, you could easily add pieces of broccoli, carrots, and even Brussels sprouts.  Keeping the pieces small so they mix in, your child will have no idea that the delicious meal is also nutritious.

Plant foods are from not only fruits and vegetables, but also whole grains and legumes.  Health experts recommend that children eat a minimum of five servings of these daily.  Again, making the food look more appetizing and fun, as well as incorporating plants into other dishes is an excellent way to meet this quota.  If you have a child that refuses to eat plants such as broccoli or carrots, you could choose pears, baked potatoes with the skin on, or dried fruits instead.

The goal with adding plants to your child’s diet is to find the ones your child likes and stick with them.  Of course, you can always encourage your child to try new fruits and vegetables but starting with those you know will be eaten is the best action to take.  For instance, you might start with fruit and then introduce your child to small pieces of broccoli with melted cheese or baked potato skins with butter and bacon.

Other keys to getting your child to eat more plants is by sticking with things that have a crunchy texture and not peeling fruits and vegetables.  First, children typically prefer a crunchy texture to a soft texture.  Additionally, the peel of fruits and vegetables is where all the vitamins are found.  Therefore, cooking these plant foods with the skin on will provide more vitamins and minerals but also improve the taste.

You could also encourage your child to eat more plant foods by creating a delicious dip.  For instance, children often love crunchy celery, carrot sticks, and even cauliflower as long as there is a delicious, creamy dip to go with it.  It would be easy to choose a low-fat dip, again giving your child the flavor he or she wants but without the added calories or fat.  Something this simple can be very successful.

Children also love being involved with things.  If you have a child who simply refuses even to try fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or legumes, ask him/her to help you make dinner.  Many times, just being involved in the preparation and cooking process is enough to peak the child’s interest.  With this, your child will feel as if he/she played an important role in making the food, thereby being more willing to eat it.

You might also consider growing a garden, again making this a family project where you could teach your child about gardening while producing healthy plant foods.  By being involved, you will likely find your child more willing to try new foods, and actually learn to enjoy them.  Remember, it is never too late to introduce plant foods into a child’s diet but the most important thing is to start while the child is very young, introducing all types of healthy foods.  With this, your child will grow up not knowing any different!

Most importantly, be patient.  If your child has never eaten healthy plant foods before, it will take time and patience.  Do not force your child to eat fruits and vegetables in that he or she will refuse.  Instead, start by adding these plant foods to regular food dishes, while offering crunchy foods with the meal.  In most cases, the child will eventually taste the plant foods, choosing what he or she likes best.  Keep in mind, peanut butter added to celery, creamy dips provided with carrots, and cheese with broccoli are great ways to enhance the flavor of the fresh foods.
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