Healthy eating means finding balance, and enjoying a variety of nutritious food choices. It also means maintaining a positive relationship to food and eating.
So, what does a balanced meal look like today?
The food guide now focuses less on how much to eat and more on enjoying whole foods with family and friends.
Check out Canada's Food Guide to see how to fill your plate with a variety of foods. Try making half of your meal vegetables and fruits, and the rest protein and whole grain foods.
You'll also find great information and food recommendations to make sure your family gets all the nutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat), vitamins, and minerals they need.
The benefits of eating whole foods
Serving your family whole, or minimally processed foods, is a great way to eat and live well. Eating whole foods is linked to less depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
Whole, fresh and unprocessed foods are minimally refined, and don't have additives such as sugars, or flavorings. Examples include: fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
On the other hand, processed and prepared foods are often high in sugars, sodium and saturated fat.
Increasing the amount of whole foods you serve will help your child maintain a stable energy level throughout the day.
Easy ways to prepare whole food meals:
- Cook with grains like barley, brown rice and old fashioned rolled oats. try a brown rice bowl with broccoli and tofu or chicken.
- Choose whole wheat pasta - or mix 50% whole wheat with white pasta until your children get used to the change. Use a tomato sauce and add ground beef and lentils.
- Make your own sauce - or if using a pre-prepared sauce, just add a vegetable or fresh protein for nutrients. Add lots of vegetables to meals. Try a meal of roasted baby potatoes, chicken and raw veggies.
Our handouts have great ideas for preparing healthy lunches and breakfasts.
Have whole food snacks available:
- Serve kid-friendly snacks. Find more ideas in our snack handout.
- Peanut butter and apples/banana
- Veggies and hummus (cucumber boats - scoop out seeds and spread on hummus)
- Trail mix (nuts, dried fruit, air popped popcorn)
- Ants on a log (on celery, spread peanut butter and add raisins)
- Whole grain crackers with cheese (Triscuits®)
- Scrambled egg on whole grain toast
- Keep cut-up veggies in the fridge - making fruits and vegetables readily available encourages your child to make healthier choices
Avoid sugary beverages
Cutting down on sugary drinks can boost your child's health. Sugar-sweetened beverages such as pop, flavoured milk, and fruit drinks, can contribute to obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes.
While sugar and caffeine do give children a short-term energy boost, they also cause blood sugar levels to rise and then fall. Low blood sugar can result in low energy, and can lead to children feeling tired and more irritable.
Try these tips to make healthier drink choices:
- Drink water and milk instead of sugar sweetened beverages. Check out Sip Smart! BC tips for families.
- Reduce sugary beverages over time - if your child has a sugary beverage 4 or 5 times a week, try reducing that to 3 times a week. Keep your eye on the long-term and make gradual changes.
- Put a time limit on sugary beverages - if you make a jug of iced tea, instead of refilling it every day, make it last. Fill a jug up on a Sunday and when it runs out, children know it's done for the week.
- Keep sugary beverages out of the home - changing your food environment reduces battles.
Canada's Food Guide
Canada's Food Guide is a source of advice to help Canadians make healthy food choices. It highlights healthy recipes, tips and practices to support healthy eating and behaviours.
Sip Smart! BC
Teach children in Grades 4-6 about sugary drinks and making healthy drinks choices. It includes a Booklet for Families as well as a Teacher Resource Guide for classrooms.
Meal Planning Handout
A helpful resource for families to assist them in meal planning.