10 Kids’ Healthy Eating Tips That Are Evidence-Based

10 Kids’ Healthy Eating Tips That Are Evidence-Based

If you’re a parent, going to Dr. Google and searching for answers to health-related questions is a given. Whether it’s about cold and flu symptoms, an odd skin rash, or kids’ healthy eating advice, we all go online first.

In fact, an April 2015 study in the Interactive Journal of Medical Research found 80 percent of parents who searched online for information about their child’s health started with a search engine, while only 20 percent went to a university or hospital-based website.

Although it’s easier than ever to get the answers you need quickly, what you’ll find isn’t always credible.

Newsguard, a site run by journalists that rates the reliability of news sites found 1 in 10 websites include misinformation about health, a recent story by STAT found

When it comes to kids’ nutrition, it’s much of the same with bloggers promoting sneaky tactics to get kids to eat vegetables or kids’ Keto recipes. And more recently, parents posting videos of scare tactics to get their kids to eat.

In our fast-paced, high-stress, mobile-driven world, searching online for health information isn’t going to stop.

My advice however, is to use sites that have articles reviewed by doctors or medical professionals like Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials or EverydayHealth.com and be sure to check in with your child’s doctor too.

Through these channels, you’ll find information about health and kids’ healthy eating tips that are backed by research. Here are 10 tips to consider.

1. Eat more plant-based foods

Whether your family is made up of vegetarians, vegans, pegans or full-fledged meat eaters, getting more plant-based foods in your kid’s diet is one of the best things you can do for their health.

Plant-based foods are packed with the nutrition kids need for their growth and development. Most plant-based foods also have filling fiber to satisfy their hunger and prevent constipation.

Recent studies show plant-based diets are linked with a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and obesity.

A January 2015 study in the Journal Of Pediatrics found children who followed a plant-based, vegan diet or the American Heart Association diet lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and improved their cholesterol in just four weeks.

2. Serve new foods repeatedly—up to 15 times!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it can take between 8 and 15 times of introducing a new food for a child to accept it.

A December 2007 study in the journal Food Quality and Preference found that when mothers introduced a vegetable their infants initially disliked, by the 8th day of serving it, their intake of it increased rapidly.

And by the 8th exposure their intake was similar to that of a vegetable they liked. Nine months later, 63 percent of the infants were still eating the originally disliked vegetable.

3. Offer more fruits and vegetables

According to a survey published in 2014 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6 in 10 children don’t eat enough fruit and 9 in 10 don’t eat enough vegetables.

So no surprise here that one of the best kids’ healthy eating tips that are evidence based is to eat more. 

Yet studies show eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, balance blood sugar, prevent weight gain and childhood obesity, reduce the risk for eye and digestive problems, heart disease and stroke, and prevent certain types of cancer.

Of course, when kids eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables it lays the foundation for healthy eating throughout their lifetimes.

4. Dish out fish and seafood every week

Fish can be a hard sell for kids but the nutrients they contain are those kids need for healthy growth and development, according to the AAP.

Fish and seafood are packed with protein, low in saturated fat, rich in micronutrients, and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support kids’ brain health and memory.

Many types of fish also contain high levels of calcium and vitamin D and some types of shellfish are high in iron, selenium and iodine.

Studies suggest that consuming seafood may improve neurodevelopment in babies and decrease cardiovascular disease risk.

The FDA and EPA recommend kids eat fish 1 to 2 times a week starting at age 2. Despite its benefits, kids aren’t eating enough fish however, mainly due to concerns over mercury.

Yet salmon, sardines, shrimp and tuna (canned light) are all safe choices.

Related: What Types of Fish Are Safe for Kids?

5. Cut down on sugar, juice and sweet drinks

Diets high in sugar are proven to lead to weight gain and obesity, type-2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and heart disease—all conditions that can follow kids throughout their lives.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we limit sugar to no more than 10 percent of our total calories for the day.

For kids, that works out to be about 30 to 35 grams of added sugar for little ones who get between 1,200 and 1,400 calories a day, according to Jessica Cording, a registered dietitian-nutritionist in New York City.

The good news is that even cutting out small amounts of sugar can make a dramatic difference in your child’s health.

According to a February 2016 study in the journal Obesity, obese children who reduced the amount of sugar in their diets but didn’t change the amount of calories they consumed had improvements in their blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL “bad” cholesterol after just 10 days. Researchers also saw significant improvements in their blood glucose and insulin levels.

Juice and sugary drinks are also high in empty calories, sugar, and carbohydrates, and drinking them can lead to weight gain, cavities and diarrhea.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says if you’re going to give kids juice, limit it to between 4 and 8 ounces a day depending on their age while infants under 1 should avoid it altogether.

Related: [VIDEO] Is Dried Fried Fruit Healthy For Kids?

6. Don’t be afraid of healthy fats

The long-standing myth that eating fat causes high cholesterol, heart disease and weight gain has been debunked and we now know that healthy fats are essential to our health and our kids’.

Healthy fats are a vital source of energy and help satisfy their hunger but the AAP recommends they make up no more than 30 percent of kids’ total calories.

Healthy fats are essential for healthy cell membranes, they support kids’ brains and the growth and development of their nervous systems, and help their bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.

They’re also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and they help regulate inflammation and metabolism.   

While experts agree it’s the trans fats and some saturated fats that should be avoided, foods with healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats from whole foods are beneficial.

7. Avoid processed foods

Most processed foods are loaded with sodium, sugar, saturated fat and artificial ingredients you can’t identify or pronounce. They also lack fiber and the vitamins and minerals kids need in their diets.

Research shows processed foods, but more specifically the sodium, sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, and food additives they contain, are linked to weight gain and childhood obesity, high blood pressure, and mental health and behavioral problems.

But your child’s health now isn’t all you should be thinking about because eating foods with added sugars and sodium early on can affect their taste preferences, the foods they eat and their health later on in life.

Experts say the more processed foods you eat—and the longer you eat them—the more likely inflammation, leaky gut syndrome and a host of health conditions will crop up in the future.

In fact, a May 2019 study in the journal Cell Metabolism found adults who consumed ultra-processed foods for 2 weeks consumed 500 extra calories than those who consumed unprocessed foods.

Two other recent studies show that consuming ultra-processed foods are linked to a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and death. 

8. Get kids to drink more water

According to an April 2019 survey in JAMA Pediatrics, 20 percent of kids don’t drink water at all and instead drink soda and sugary drinks—a sneaky source of calories and sugar.

When your kids are mildly dehydrated it can make them feel tired, lack focus and make them struggle with easy tasks.

Studies show brain tissue can even temporarily shrink without enough water in the body. And even if your kids eat healthy, they could become constipated.

9. Make time for breakfast 

According to an August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, only about one-third of kids eat breakfast every day, 17 percent never eat breakfast and the rest only eat breakfast a fews days a week.

Yet kids who eat breakfast everyday have a higher daily consumption of key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron and iodine than those who skip breakfast, the same study found.

Eating a healthy breakfast gives kid the energy and focus they need to get through the day, and they may even do better in school.

In fact, a June 2016 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition, which included 5,000 kids, found those who ate breakfast and those who ate a better quality breakfast, were twice as likely to do better in school than those who didn’t.

Eating breakfast is also associated with a lower risk for obesity and serious health conditions.

According to a March 2016 study in the journal Pediatric Obesity, kids who ate breakfast at school, even if they already had breakfast at home, were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who didn’t eat breakfast.

And a September 2014 study in the journal PLOS Medicine found 9 and 10-year-old children who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 26 percent higher levels of insulin in their blood after a fasting period and 26 percent higher levels of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes, than children who ate breakfast every day.

Related: 7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat a Healthy Breakfast

10. Cut down on sodium

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 90 percent of kids get too much sodium in their diets each day and more than 40 percent of it comes from only 10 foods.

Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which about 3.5 percent of kids already have, according to the AAP.

High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease and vision loss, among other health conditions.

So even if your kids don’t have high blood pressure now, if they continue to eat too much sodium, there’s  a good chance they will in the future.

Related: 10 Sneaky Sources of Sodium in Your Kid’s Diet

7 Budget-Friendly Healthy Foods

7 Budget-Friendly Healthy Foods

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Although there are ways to eat healthy on a budget, there’s no denying that buying fresh, whole—even frozen—foods is pricier than processed, packaged foods and fast food.

In the last decade alone, the cost of food has increased by 26 percent and the average grocery bill for a family of 4 is anywhere between $129 and $285 per week, according to the USDA.

The good news is that your family can eat healthy and save money without sacrificing nutrition or taste.

Here are 7 budget-friendly healthy foods to fill up your grocery cart with each week.


1. Bananas


A great source of potassium and vitamin B6, bananas are also a good source of fiber: 1 small banana has 2.6 grams.

Since they’re not considered part of the dirty dozen, you can buy conventional  bananas which are more affordable.

In our home, we go through at least two bunches of bananas a week. I add bananas to oatmeal, overnight oats, green smoothies, and use them as a replacement for oil in bread, muffin and baking recipes.

When the bananas start to over-ripen, throw them in the freezer and whip up a frozen, non-dairy faux ice cream to stretch your food dollars even more.

 

2. Eggs


Eggs are often dubbed “a perfect food” and for good reason.

An excellent source of protein, eggs are also high in lutein, B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs make the list of budget friendly healthy foods because they’re so versatile.

Hard-boiled eggs can be served for breakfast, added to salads, transformed into egg salad or packed for snacks when you’re on the go.

My kids eat eggs almost every day whether it’s scrambled, in a frittata or a quiche, or incorporated into an egg “fried” rice.

Pasture-raised eggs and organic eggs are ideal because they’re raised humanely, treated without antibiotics or arsenic, and their nutritional profile is better than white eggs.

Although they’re more expensive, I’ve noticed prices come way down in recent months.

Something I also discovered at my local grocery store is that organic eggs are found in two areas of the store: the organic/natural section where they’re more expensive and the regular eggs section which are more affordable.


3. Broccoli


Since they’re high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, green leafy vegetables are some of the best vegetables to feed your kids

Broccoli in particular, is high in vitamins C, K, and folate.

It’s also quite affordable and can be served cooked or raw, and for meals or snacks.

Add broccoli to stews, casseroles and salads, as well as egg, pasta and rice dishes. 

Or use your blender or Vitamix to blend the florets and the stems into a healthy, delicious soup.


4. Rolled oats


Rolled oats are low in sugar and a good source of whole grains and filling fiber, iron, selenium and manganese.

I use rolled oats practically every day in oatmeal, overnight oats, energy bites, cookies, breads, pancakes and muffins.


5. Frozen peas


With 5 grams of fiber and protein per 1/2 cup, peas are also a good source of vitamins A, B6, C, K, folate and magnesium.

While fresh peas are in season in the spring, you can stock up on frozen peas all year long.

Peas not only make for a great first food for baby, but they can be added to practically every dish including soups, stews, rice dishes, pastas and salads.

 

 


6. Sweet potatoes


An excellent source of vitamins A and C, and fiber, sweet potatoes are not only healthy, but a food most kids like and one that can stretch your food budget.

I love roasted sweet potatoes with cinnamon and sea salt but you can also pop them in the microwave when you’re tight on time or grate them into a hash and serve them with eggs.

 

 


7. Beans and lentils

 


Beans and lentils are high in both protein and fiber and excellent sources of iron. Also, since you can buy beans in bulk, a little goes a long way.

Add beans to rice and pasta dishes, incorporate them into soups, stews and chilis or serve them as an appetizer that your kids can munch on while you’re cooking dinner.

6 Tips For a Healthy Vegetarian Pregnancy  A vegetarian diet can be a heathy way to eat during pregnancy, but you'll want to make sure it's designed to support your baby's growth and development.

6 Tips For a Healthy Vegetarian Pregnancy

A vegetarian diet can be a heathy way to eat during pregnancy, but you'll want to make sure it's designed to support your baby's growth and development.

A vegetarian diet—one that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds—can be a healthy way to eat, even during pregnancy.

According to a 2016 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ position paper, a well planned vegetarian or vegan diet during pregnancy and while breastfeeding is appropriate. What’s more, a 2015 review in the journal BJOG suggests following a vegetarian or vegan diet during pregnancy is safe and not associated with adverse outcomes or birth defects.

Being a junk-food vegetarian and filling up on meatless foods like breads, pastas and processed foods alone however, isn’t a healthy way to eat and can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Add to that nausea and morning sickness, and you could be missing out on the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy.

The key therefore, is to make sure your vegetarian diet is well designed and includes all of the nutrients you and your baby need.

Here are some things to consider when planning a vegetarian diet during pregnancy.

1. Fill up on folate

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends all women of childbearing age take between 400 and 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, to prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida that can occur during the early weeks of pregnancy.

During pregnancy, you should take a prenatal vitamin with 600 mcg of folic acid to support your baby’s development.

Although folic acid is better absorbed than folate-rich foods, getting foods like spinach, black-eyed peas, asparagus and Brussels sprouts is ideal.

2. Pick protein

Getting enough protein during pregnancy is important for cell growth, both for you and your baby.

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein is 46 grams per day during the first trimester and 71 grams per day during the second and third trimesters.

On a vegetarian diet, beans and legumes are excellent sources of protein and can easily be swapped in for meat in most dishes. Beans and legumes are also healthy choices because they contain fiber which balance blood sugar, help you feel satiated and prevent pregnancy constipation.

Other sources of protein include eggs, nuts and seeds, tofu, tempeh and edamame.

3. Up your intake of iron

Iron helps your baby and the placenta develop, allows red blood cells in your body to deliver oxygen to your baby, and maintains your body’s blood volume which doubles during pregnancy. Not only can iron-deficiency anemia cause fatigue, it can lead to preterm labor as well.

During pregnancy, you need 27 milligrams of iron but your iron needs may be higher because plant-based iron may not be as readily absorbed as the iron in animal products.

To improve absorbency, you can soak and cook beans, legumes and nuts or pair them with vitamin-C rich foods. Vitamin C rich foods include strawberries, honeydew, broccoli, cauliflower, green peppers, Brussel sprouts and tomatoes. Other iron-rich foods include eggs, spinach, raisins, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and fortified cereals.

4. Eat calcium-rich foods

Calcium is an important nutrient during pregnancy because it helps your baby build strong teeth and bones, and it’s important for his cardiovascular function.

Dairy products are a rich source of calcium, vitamin D and protein as well as vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 supports brain and nervous system development and is necessary to absorb folate and choline. B12 is primarily found in animal sources but you can also get it in fortified foods like cereals, meat substitutes, nondairy milks, and nutritional yeast.

If you’re avoiding dairy products, be sure to include non-dairy calcium sources such as green leafy vegetables, figs, and chia seeds.

5. Get healthy fats

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, are vital for baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system development. Be sure to include fatty fish like salmon as well as eggs, nuts and seeds.

If you don’t eat fish or eggs however, you’ll want to pay attention to the ration of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids for optimal conversion of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to DHA and EPA. I suggest you speak with a registered dietitian nutrition who specializes in pregnancy nutrition and can design a healthy plan for you.

6. Eat complex carbohydrates

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy. They support your baby’s neurological development and overall health, and give you steady energy throughout the day.

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include foods like fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and brown rice.

7. Take a prenatal vitamin

A good prenatal vitamin shouldn’t replace whole-food sources of nutrients but if you’re battling morning sickness or find it difficult to get what you need, it can help fill in the nutritional gaps.