Making consistently good food choices can set your family on the road to good health. Besides helping you stay healthy, a nutritious diet can support growth, strengthen immune systems and boost energy levels. A good diet can even lift your mood and improve performance at school and work.
Make good nutrition a family affair: resolve to make healthy changes together. These tips will start every member of the family on a new course of good nutrition.
1. Start right with the right foods
To help establish a lifetime of wellness, begin with good eating habits during pregnancy — and then continue to make nutritious choices for your baby.
Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. Experts such as the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for your baby's first six months, followed by continued breastfeeding for as long as possible after introduction of first foods.
Around 6 months of age, babies are usually ready to try solid foods. Your paediatrician can help determine when your baby is ready. Feeding iron-fortified infant cereal is a great way to help meet your baby's iron needs. Add fruits and veggies one at a time, with a few days in between each new food.
Ensure foods are the right size and texture to match your baby's development, starting with puréed foods and working your way to small, soft bits as he or she learns to chew. Offering a wide variety of nutritious and age-appropriate foods will help your baby experience different tastes and flavours, too.
2. Get kids in the kitchen
If you're a parent, you're being watched.
So make sure your child sees you eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains - and fewer sugary, fatty or salty foods. Explain why milk or water is a better choice than sugary drinks.
Plan to eat meals together. Shared mealtime is a great chance to reconnect as a family, and to engage your children in positive, fun explorations of what it means to be healthy.
Invite kids to help you grocery shop, plan meals and cook. They'll learn important lifelong skills. One study even found that children who help prepare meals eat more vegetables than those who don't participate.
Can't get kids to try new foods? Don't give up. Research shows that young children may need to try a new veggie up to 10 times before they learn to like it.
3. Stock up for teens
Good nutrition is crucial during the teen years, but it can be a challenge. Teenagers are developing their own food preferences. They're on the grow — and on the go.
Make healthy eating easy for them. Stock up on simple, appealing foods — from cut-up fruits and veggies to smoothies, whole-grain wraps, soups and sandwiches. For a satisfying and teen-approved beverage that provides a protein punch, opt for chocolate milk, which offers nine essential nutrients, including vitamin D, calcium and potassium.
While their nutritional needs are increasing, teenagers are facing new emotional challenges too — and that can cause them to overeat, skip meals or diet. Watch for unhealthy eating patterns and be sensitive to body-image concerns. Continue to offer relaxed and positive family meals.
4. Grow up, not out
By middle age, our metabolism begins to slow. We need fewer calories, but it's hard to break old habits. That's where mindful eating can help.
Set the table, turn off your devices and savour every bite. You'll feel more satisfied after meals and be less tempted to snack. Moderate your alcohol intake, and don't forget your water bottle.
And if your serving sizes have mysteriously expanded over the years, now's the time to seek some portion pointers (pdf, 630 Kb) too.
5. Older and wiser food choices
Whether from changing tastes, dental problems, medication or illness, people often lose their appetites as they grow older.
In spite of reduced energy needs, good nutrition remains essential for older adults. And it's never too late to make positive changes.
If you or an older family member can't shop often enough to buy fresh produce, order your groceries online. Or buy frozen and canned fruits and vegetables, which can be just as healthy as fresh produce. Read labels to avoid extra sugar or sodium, and remember to drink plenty of water.
If weight loss becomes a problem, consider a liquid supplement or meal replacement beverage. Today's supplements are a tasty way to fill nutrient, calorie and protein gaps.
So go ahead and hit the reset button. Resolve to replace your old eating habits with healthier ones from now on. And do it together.