planning healthy meals

planning healthy meals

In the clothing example, the balanced parent provided the child with a range of appropriate clothing options. The child then chose from within the selection what she wanted to wear that day. The same goes for food. The parent provides a range of appropriate foods and the child chooses which ones and how much to eat.

Healthy food should be offered most often, with treats on occasion. Instead of setting up food as “good” or “bad,” it’s more helpful to refer to food as “everyday foods” and “sometimes foods.”

You might be tempted to keep your child in a healthy food bubble and never give them treats, but this doesn’t set them up for success in the long run. Eventually they will leave your nutritional bubble and not know how to handle treats. It’s best to show and teach children how to handle treats. All foods fit in a healthy diet, it just depends on the frequency and quantity.

Many countries have created Food Guides to help their citizens make healthy food choices.

USA

Canada

Australia

United Kingdom

France

These are all different visual representations of essentially the same messaging:

Balance

– Choose food from the different food groups in appropriate quantities
– Choose vegetables and fruit most often
– Then grains
– And include some milk products (or alternatives) and meat (or alternatives)

Variety
– Don’t always eat the same old thing.
– Choose different foods from within the food groups
Moderation
– Enjoy treats on occasion!

Following your country’s Food Guide makes it easy to plan healthy meals:

  • For snacks, choose foods from 2-3 different food groups
  • For meals, choose foods from 3-4 different food groups
  • Always choose Fruits and Vegetables as one of the food groups
  • Make sure to offer each food group at least twice throughout the day

Food is divided into food groups based on the nutrients these foods provide.  If you are consuming foods from all four food groups, you will be hitting all the major nutrients that your body needs. For example, Vitamin C is only found in the Vegetable and Fruit category. If you didn’t eat fruits and vegetables, you would become deficient in Vitamin C!


Reflection:

Take a look on the internet to find your country’s current food guide and become familiar with the principles, especially the categories that each food falls under.

The homework from the last lecture involved writing down the food you offered to your child during a typical 24 hour period. Let’s take a look at this list now.

  • Were there at least 2-3 different food groups offered at each snack?
  • Were there at least 3-4 different food groups offered at each snack?
  • Was there at least one vegetable or fruit choice at each snack or meal?
  • Were all 4 food groups offered at least 2 throughout the day?

If you answered yes to all the questions, then congratulations! You are offering a healthy, balanced menu to your child. Take a moment to think about whether this day is typical of most days in your house.

If you answered no to any of the questions, it might be helpful to continue for a few days to record the food you offer to your child. Use the graph found below. Afterwards, take a look to see if any patterns emerge. From there, you can find areas you might need to work on.

As a reminder, here are the principles to aim for:

  • For snacks, choose foods from 2-3 different food groups
  • For meals, choose foods from 3-4 different food groups
  • Always choose Fruits and Vegetables as one of the food groups
  • Make sure to offer each food group at least twice throughout the day