Parents really want to provide their children with the tools to develop a healthy mind, body and behavior! However, while parents may want to provide foods and establish eating habits that are the most beneficial to their child, sometimes it’s hard to know what to put on their kids plate, especially in our fast-paced society. Unlike the past, parents now have a new tool they can use and really be successful with their goals! It is called MyPlate. Using this tool, you (and your kids) can easily visualize what you should have on a plate for any meal. Using MyPlate, parents have a constant reminder of what makes up a healthy meal and healthy eating habits.
MyPlate is made for practical everyday use at mealtimes to promote healthy eating habits and smart food choices. With sections labeled fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein on the plate with a reminder for dairy on the side, it’s like there are blinking digital signs reminding us of what we should strive to have at every meal. And if this isn’t how your family has typically been eating, it’s a tool that will be with you at every meal helping you to build a healthy plate and healthy eating habits.
The healthy eating habits promoted through MyPlate include:
Balanced Food Groups
- Include fruit, vegetables, protein, grains and low fat or fat free dairy with each meal, using snacks to fill in wherever you may have fallen short during meal time. When snacking or providing snacks, consider where you were lacking during the day. For instance, occasionally, I’ll find myself unprepared for making school lunches in the morning (especially on a Monday after a weekend full of games) and not have a raw vegetable on hand to include in the lunch box. So I may include a mix of almonds and dried fruit in the place of the vegetable, knowing that I’ll make up for this by providing hummus and raw carrots and broccoli for the after school snack.
Half Your Plate Fruits and Veggies
- Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables, and offer a variety of fruits and vegetables. Try different colors and different preparations, such as raw, steamed or grilled, to add variety. Take the kids to the produce stand and get inspired by what you can do with all of the in-season produce that your area has to offer.
Eat Whole Grains
- Make half of your grains come from whole grains. Oats, whole wheat flour, brown rice and popcorn are common whole grains. Whole grains provide fiber and many vitamins and minerals that are stripped away when refining grains.
Choose Healthy Dairy Options
- Choose low fat and fat free dairy. Low fat and fat free dairy provide calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein.
Vary Your Proteins
- Choose a variety of protein sources, including beans, nuts, seeds, lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and soy. Try having a meatless day once per week to encourage the use of beans and other vegetarian protein sources.
Learn Fullness Cues
- Enjoy your food, but eat less. It’s important to have a designated place to eat where your family can enjoy and pay attention to their food. Paying attention to your food and how your body feels helps children (and adults too) to recognize when they are full. A designated place to eat is a great habit to develop with your family if you haven’t already because reducing distractions helps to prevent mindless eating.
Choose Foods with Less Junk
- Look for foods and drinks with less saturated fat, sodium and sugar. Use the Nutrition Facts food label to identify food choices that are healthier for you. For instance, choosing water for your child to drink is a much healthier choice than choosing soda.
If you are already following some are all of these tips, then you are on your way to a healthier family. If you aren’t already following them, begin with small, achievable steps, such as including a vegetable with every meal. As a parent, sometimes you just need a little help in creating habits. Using the MyPlate with your kids is a tool that will definitely make your job easier. Your kids will begin to remind you of what they need on their plate making your job even easier! Every small step towards healthier eating habits is a huge success!
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie