I’d like to thank Kayla Resch, undergraduate student in dietetics at URI, for this great post on how to feed children according to the MyPlate. Thanks, Kayla!
Looking at this plate what jumps out at you is that half the plate consists of fruit and vegetables. Also only ¼ of the plate consists of protein, when meat is usually accepted as the the highlight of a dish. Though this is different than our old ideas, change is good! Having a plate filled with so much variety allows more nutrient dense meals (according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, nutrient-dense foods are those foods that provide substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals and relatively few calories.) Nutrient dense meals are essential not only to adults, but especially for children. Children need fewer calories than adults, so what they put in their bodies should be filled with more bang-for-the-buck foods.
So some of you may be thinking that with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, “How will my picky child be receptive to this “new” dish?” With this new way of thinking about what our plates should look like, should come new ways in which we present fruits and vegetables on the plate. Parents have many options for incorporating fruits and vegetables in their children’s meals.
1. Take your child grocery shopping and allow them to choose fruits and vegetables that they like or want to try. Allowing your child to have a choice in the matter will allow the child to feel that eating healthy is fun and not a chore.
2. Put on a happy face. You have an influence on how your child responds to new things. If you have positive body language, your child will pick up on this and be more willing to take that first bite.
3. Patience. Do not force your child to eat a new food they do not like. It may take multiple times for a child to warm up to a new food. Remember their taste buds are not as developed and they may taste things differently than adults do.
4. Encourage your child to eat a variety of colors and teach them that with more colors, comes more nutrients.
5. Have fun! Choose meals that are fun for children to eat, like kabobs, veggies and hummus, and meals where they can choose from abundant toppings.
6. Take classic children favorites and put a new twist on it. Add some broccoli or peppers to the mac and cheese, bake sweet potato wedges to replace the French fry. For similar ideas of re-vamping children’s favorites, I suggest taking a look at the Deceptively Delicious cook book by Jessica Seinfeld. She prepares purees of a variety of vegetables and fruits and incorporates them into everyday dishes. However, slipping pureed veggies into your kids’ meals doesn’t teach them to like vegetables. So, you still need to add vegetables to their plate on a daily basis to have a perfectly balanced meal that corresponds to the new MyPlate.