Healthy eating with kids

Healthy Eating the Whole Family Can Enjoy

Eating nutritious food is important at every age. For children, a healthy diet with the right serving sizes ensures proper growth and development. As you get older, you need to eat healthy to give your body energy throughout the day and to ward off health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions.

Everyone’s nutritional needs are different, says Denver-based dietitian Jessica Crandall, RD, CDE, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. For example, a pregnant woman needs more calories than an 85-year-old man. A teenager needs more protein than a younger child.

Age, height, weight, and activity level, as well as any health conditions, impact nutrient and calorie needs, but if you cook for a family, it can be difficult to make sure everyone’s meeting their daily quota.

Here are some tips for serving healthy meals to the kids and the adults at your kitchen table.

Fruits and Vegetables First

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children younger than 3 years need two servings of fruits and vegetables a day, increasing to about three daily servings at ages 4 to 8. Boys age 9 to 13 who are moderately active should get four servings a day, while girls of the same age who are moderately active need only 3.5 servings a day. Most adults need five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

Here are some tasty ways to add these nutritious foods to your family’s diet:

  • Add sliced bananas or blueberries to morning cereal.
  • Offer a fruit smoothie for breakfast, lunch, or even as dessert. “It’s a sneaky way to give your children the vitamins and minerals they need and to help them stay hydrated,” Crandall says. Include some sweet-tasting veggies — like carrots — in the smoothie for a nutritious boost.
  • Request fruits and vegetables with your favorite foods, such as topping pancakes with strawberries or pizza with broccoli.
  • Add slices of tomato and cucumber as well as lettuce or sprouts to sandwiches. Or, swap mayo and mustard with pureed hummus or pesto.
  • Add peas or carrots to tomato sauce — and serve it over whole-grain pasta.

Your children don’t have to eat all their fruits and vegetables in one meal, Crandall says. They may not protest as much if you spread them out and add just a single serving to every meal and snack.

Dipping Into Dairy, Proteins, and Grains

In addition to fruits and vegetables, there are other food groups your family needs in order to stay healthy.

  • Dairy foods. They’re an excellent source of bone-building calcium, vitamin D and protein, but go for the low-fat or fat-free versions of milk, yogurt, and cheese. If you don’t like dairy products, you can also find calcium in dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach, fish such as salmon, and almond milk. Also look for calcium-fortified breads and cereals.
  • Whole grains. At least half the grains that you and your family consume should be whole grains. When buying wheat, rice, oats, or corn, look at the ingredients label to be sure it says “whole grain.”
  • Lean proteins. Children up to the age of 5 need only two portions of protein in their daily diets. As they get older, their protein requirements increase. You’ll find protein not only in meat, poultry, and fish, but also in eggs, milk, cheese, nuts, and beans. An 8-ounce cup of yogurt has 11 grams of protein, and popular Greek styles have slightly more. When choosing meat, go for lean cuts like skinless poultry breast, beef eye round or pork tenderloin.
  • Healthy fats. Plant-based fats such as olive or canola oil are the healthiest. Butter and other animal fats tend to raise cholesterol levels, increasing the risk for heart disease.

Know Your Limits: Sugar and Salt

Children should consume no more than 3 teaspoons of sugar a day (12 grams), according to the American Heart Association. It’s natural to cut back your children’s intake of candy, cookies, and ice cream. But hidden sugars are found in a lot of the everyday foods we eat, including bread, soups, condiments, and fast food.

In most recipes, you can decrease the amount of sugar by up to a third without affecting the taste. You also can add fresh fruit in place of some of the sugar.

Adults also need to watch their sugar intake, as overindulging can result in weight gain and complications if you have diabetes.

Here’s how to watch your family’s sugar intake:

  • Cut out soda and sweetened beverages. One 12-ounce can of soda can contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar, which is three times the amount a child should have in an entire day. Substitute sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice for flavor.
  • Limit processed and fast foods. Store-bought cakes and cookies can be loaded with sugar, not to mention unhealthy trans fats. If you can, bake your own and adapt recipes to use less sugar. In most recipes, you can decrease the amount of sugar by up to a third without affecting the taste. You also can add fresh fruit in place of some of the sugar. Know that it’s okay to have French fries once in a while — they’re often a favorite food for children — just don’t make them a part of your everyday meal plan.
  • Make your own frozen treats. Make popsicles from 100 percent fruit juice. Freeze fruits such as grapes, berries, and bananas and use them as a topping for low-fat vanilla ice cream.

Children and adults also need to watch their salt intake as too much salt in your diet can lead to high blood pressure and increase heart disease risk. The Children’s Nutrition Research Center recommends that children between the ages of 2 and 3 limit their sodium intake to between 1,000 and 1,500 milligrams (mg). The recommendations for children between the ages of 4 and 8 are 1,200 to 1,900 mg; for children 9 to 13 years old, 1,500 to 2,200 mg; and for 14- to 18-year-olds, 1,500 to 2,300 mg.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that adults should have no more than 2,300 mg of sodium in their diets.

To limit salt intake, adults can make the following dietary choices:

  • Add fresh herbs when you cook and season foods. Your taste buds get less sensitive as you get older, so increased flavor is important. Fresh herbs and lemon juice are great salt substitutes.
  • Choose frozen over canned. Frozen vegetables usually contain less salt than canned, but check the packaging to be sure.

The Transition to Better Nutrition for the Family

Here are other steps you can take to help your family eat healthily:

  • Eat together. With everyone’s busy schedule, it can be hard to have dinner on the table at the same time every night. But try to have dinner as a family as often as possible. Scheduling it for the same time every night can make it easier for each family member to plan around it. When families eat together, mom, dad, and kids make healthier meal choices and develop healthier eating habits that they keep when eating away from home.
  • Cook more often. When you do the cooking, you control how much fat, salt, and other ingredients go into your family’s meals. Prepare your kids’ favorite foods, but make healthier versions — for example, use low-fat cheese and whole-wheat crust to make your own pizza.
  • Get everyone involved in meal planning. Take turns picking menus and preparing foods. Even young children can help. The more involved everyone is, the more they’ll want to eat what’s on the menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Stock the pantry with healthy snacks. Fill your shelves with healthy snack options, such as hot-air popcorn and unsalted pretzels. If you must have potato chips in the house for special occasions, keep them toward the back so they’re harder to see. Cut up fresh fruits and vegetables and keep them in the fridge so that they’re easily accessible when you and your kids reach for a snack.
  • Make changes gradually. Take a gradual approach to improving your family’s nutritional profile. Don’t just decide to throw away all the junk food in your cupboards and refrigerator, Crandall says. “It’s better to make changes slowly,” she explains. Your family will adapt more easily to gradual healthy changes made over time.
  • Watch your portions. It’s okay to eat your favorites once in a while, Crandall says. If you eliminate your guilty pleasures, such as chocolate or French fries, entirely, you’ll only crave them more. Instead, restrict them to special occasions and control your portions. If you overeat at dinner, start over the next day. Don’t give up on healthy eating just because you fell off the wagon once or twice.

A Lifetime of Healthy Eating

Children learn their eating habits early. If you can instill healthy-eating habits in them when they’re young, they’ll be more likely to carry these habits into adulthood, Crandall says. But it’s important to avoid being too pushy when it comes to your children’s diet, she warns. “Be patient and persistent about offering healthy choices to kids, and they’ll eventually come around.”

Healthy Eating

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Whether you have a toddler or a teen, here are five of the best strategies to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits:

  1. Have regular family meals.
  2. Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks.
  3. Be a role model by eating healthy yourself.
  4. Avoid battles over food.
  5. Involve kids in the process.

Sure, eating well can be hard — family schedules are hectic and grab-and-go convenience food is readily available. But our tips can help make all five strategies part of your busy household.

Family Meals

Family meals are a comforting ritual for both parents and kids. Children like the predictability of family meals and parents get a chance to catch up with their kids. Kids who take part in regular family meals are also:

  • more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and grains
  • less likely to snack on unhealthy foods
  • less likely to smoke, use marijuana, or drink alcohol

Also, family meals are a chance for parents to introduce kids to new foods and to be role models for healthy eating.

Teens may turn up their noses at the prospect of a family meal — not surprising because they’re busy and want to be more independent. Yet studies find that teens still want their parents’ advice and counsel, so use mealtime as a chance to reconnect.

You might also try these tips:

  • Let kids invite a friend to dinner.
  • Involve your child in meal planning and preparation.
  • Keep mealtime calm and friendly — no lectures or arguing.

What counts as a family meal? Whenever you and your family eat together — whether it’s takeout food or a home-cooked meal with all the trimmings. Strive for nutritious food and a time when everyone can be there. This may mean eating dinner a little later to accommodate a teen who’s at sports practice. It also can mean setting aside time on the weekends when it may be more convenient to gather as a group, such as for Sunday brunch.

Stock Up on Healthy Foods

Kids, especially younger ones, will eat mostly what’s available at home. That’s why it’s important to control the supply lines — the foods that you serve for meals and have on hand for snacks.

Follow these basic guidelines:

  • Work fruits and vegetables into the daily routine, aiming for the goal of at least five servings a day. Be sure you serve fruit or vegetables at every meal.
  • Make it easy for kids to choose healthy snacks by keeping fruits and vegetables on hand and ready to eat. Other good snacks include low-fat yogurt, peanut butter and celery, or whole-grain crackers and cheese.
  • Serve lean meats and other good sources of protein, such as fish, eggs, beans, and nuts.
  • Choose whole-grain breads and cereals so kids get more fiber.
  • Limit fat intake by avoiding fried foods and choosing healthier cooking methods, such as broiling, grilling, roasting, and steaming. Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy products.
  • Limit fast food and low-nutrient snacks, such as chips and candy. But don’t completely ban favorite snacks from your home. Instead, make them “once-in-a-while” foods, so kids don’t feel deprived.
  • Limit sugary drinks, such as soda and fruit-flavored drinks. Serve water and low-fat milk instead.

Be a Role Model

The best way for you to encourage healthy eating is to eat well yourself. Kids will follow the lead of the adults they see every day. By eating fruits and vegetables and not overindulging in the less nutritious stuff, you’ll be sending the right message.

Another way to be a good role model is to serve appropriate portions and not overeat. Talk about your feelings of fullness, especially with younger children. You might say, “This is delicious, but I’m full, so I’m going to stop eating.” Similarly, parents who are always dieting or complaining about their bodies may foster these same negative feelings in their kids. Try to keep a positive approach about food.

Don’t Battle Over Food

It’s easy for food to become a source of conflict. Well-intentioned parents might find themselves bargaining or bribing kids so they eat the healthy food in front of them. A better strategy is to give kids some control, but to also limit the kind of foods available at home.

Kids should decide if they’re hungry, what they will eat from the foods served, and when they’re full. Parents control which foods are available to their kids, both at mealtime and between meals. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Establish a predictable schedule of meals and snacks. It’s OK to choose not to eat when both parents and kids know when to expect the next meal or snack.
  • Don’t force kids to clean their plates. Doing so teaches kids to override feelings of fullness.
  • Don’t bribe or reward kids with food. Avoid using dessert as the prize for eating the meal.
  • Don’t use food as a way of showing love. When you want to show love, give kids a hug, some of your time, or praise.

Get Kids Involved

Most kids will enjoy deciding what to make for dinner. Talk to them about making choices and planning a balanced meal. Some might even want to help shop for ingredients and prepare the meal. At the store, teach kids to check out food labels to begin understanding what to look for.

In the kitchen, select age-appropriate tasks so kids can play a part without getting injured or feeling overwhelmed. And at the end of the meal, don’t forget to praise the chef.

School lunches can be another learning lesson for kids. More important, if you can get them thinking about what they eat for lunch, you might be able to help them make positive changes. Brainstorm about what kinds of foods they’d like for lunch or go to the grocery store to shop together for healthy, packable foods.

There’s another important reason why kids should be involved: It can help prepare them to make good decisions on their own about the foods they want to eat. That’s not to say they’ll suddenly want a salad instead of french fries, but the mealtime habits you help create now can lead to a lifetime of healthier choices.

Check out some healthy recipes for kids of all ages.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD Date reviewed: June 2018

20 Ways to Get Your Family on Board with Healthy Eating

When your fitness tribe also happens to be your family, it might be challenging to get everyone excited about kale, quinoa and cauliflower — especially little mouths that aren’t accustomed to eating these foods.

Here are 20 ways to help you get your family on board with healthy eating.

1. Don’t suddenly overhaul your family’s diet. Start small with one healthy change at a time.

2. Be a role model. Eat the nutritious foods you want your family to eat.

3. Nudge, don’t nag. You want your family to want nutritious foods.

4. Introduce new foods gradually and prepare them a few different ways to see what everyone likes best.

5. Stock healthy snacks in plain view — place a bowl of fruit on the counter, for example.

6. Eat nutritious meals together as a family. They don’t have to be fancy, just delicious.

7. Make the farmer’s market a family affair. Have the kids choose one vegetable they want to help prepare that week.

8. When making casseroles, meatloaf, chili, soups and stews, toss in some grated, chopped or pureed vegetables, too.

9. When you talk about healthy foods with your family, highlight the nutrients the foods provide.

10. Explore new ways to prepare veggies. If you usually steam, try roasting or grilling. Start by trying some easy, 5-star recipes online.

11. Teach your kids to honor their hunger cues. When they tell you they’re full, don’t insist they clean their plate.

12. Take pride in food presentation. Research shows beautiful food actually tastes better.

13. Get your family involved in meal planning and food prep. For example, have your kids choose something to eat for Meatless Monday.

14. Limit fruit juice intake to one 6-ounce glass per day. Any more than that and those calories will quickly add up.

15. Have fun with healthy foods to make them more appealing to kids. Try making celery boats, or cutting fruit and vegetables into fun shapes with small cookie cutters.

16. Stir frozen vegetables into canned soups or frozen entrees. This is something older kids can do even when they’re fending for themselves.

17. Select snacks that provide around 150 to 200 calories, and also make sure they contain some protein, fiber, or healthy fats.

18. Teach your family how to read the Nutrition Facts Label and have them help you scan the ingredients at the grocery store.

19. Adopt a “No Sugar-Sweetened Drink Policy” at home. Make milk or water the go-to beverage at mealtime and save soda, fruit punch, and sports drinks for special occasions.

20. Learn a few healthy ingredient swaps, such as using Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, or coconut oil instead of butter in baked goods, to cut down on saturated. Simple substitutions go a long way in helping your family eat more healthfully.

How do you get your little ones (and picky big ones) to eat healthy foods? Share in the comments below!

Meal Planning Tips for a Healthy Family

Feeding an active family a nutritious menu is never easy, especially when time is short and picky eaters abound.

The following strategies for each meal plus healthy snacks will help you nourish your brood, without the drama.

Jump to:
Breaking for Breakfast | Fun and Healthy Lunches | Dynamite Dinners

Breaking for Breakfast

It’s hard to overstate the importance of a healthy breakfast, and it’s even more critical for kids. A few things to consider:

  • Studies have shown that children who regularly eat breakfast are more likely to meet their recommended dietary intake for vitamins and minerals.
  • When children skip breakfast, they do not typically make up the lost nutrients at other meals of the day.
  • Children who skip breakfast also tend to fill up on nutrient-poor snacks at school and are less likely to consume the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.
  • Research indicates that eating a healthy breakfast positively affects cognitive function and academic performance in children.
  • Evidence also seems to suggest that eating breakfast is associated with less likelihood of being overweight.
  • A good breakfast not only contributes to physical health, it also supports emotional stability and mental alertness.
  • Breakfast also helps promote regular meal patterns and consistent energy intake

Okay, so breakfast is important. But what kind is best?

The ideal breakfast should have lots of fiber and whole grains, some protein and good fat, and as little added sugar as possible.

Many typical breakfasts fall short on protein, so consider the following protein-rich foods to give you the wakeup you need:

Make a Green Smoothie

Catherine McCord of Weelicious creates a healthy smoothie your kids will love.

  • Eggs, cooked any way you like them (hard-boiled eggs are easy to have around for a quick protein boost)
  • Unsweetened yogurt or cottage cheese with berries
  • Refried beans spread on whole grain toast or tortillas
  • Nut butters
  • Burritos with eggs or beans and cheese on whole grain tortillas
  • All types of natural meat, such as breakfast steaks, lean pork chops, or turkey bacon
  • Hummus on whole grain or corn tortillas
  • Yogurt, hot cereal, or cold cereal with nuts
  • Tempeh
  • Scrambled tofu
  • Unsweetened kefir
  • Cheese sticks with fruit
  • Cream cheese on whole grain crackers

But how do you get them to eat it?

The best ideas are useless if you can’t get your family to try them. How do you encourage everyone in the house to actually eat a good breakfast?

Start by setting aside enough time – just an extra 10 minutes can make a big difference. If your kids are addicted to empty-calorie food like donuts or pastries, offer them their favorite non-breakfast foods, such as pizza, smoothies or any leftovers. To wean your family off sugary cereals, try mixing in increasing amounts of unsweetened cereals until their taste buds have adjusted.

Need breakfast on the run? Here are a few that are fun.

  • Smoothie + a dollop of their favorite nut or seed butter
  • Hard-boiled eggs + whole grain crackers + fresh fruit
  • Whole grain toast + cream cheese + sliced strawberries

Fun and Healthy Lunches

A kid-friendly lunch doesn’t have to be peanut butter and jelly. Not only can foods like fruit kabobs, pizza quesadillas and noodle bowls be just as easy to make as a sandwich, you may be surprised by how much kids love these healthier choices.
Ideas for spreading the lunch love:

  • Give kids something they can assemble themselves. Kids are crazy for dipping, stacking and rolling up their food into fun treats.
  • For kids, anything “mini” equals fun. Serve them food in miniature, like mini whole grain bagels, potstickers or cheese cubes.
  • Make food into fun shapes: colorful or interestingly shaped pasta, sandwiches cut into shapes with cookie cutters, or fruit carved into triangles, circles and squares.
  • Try to expose your children to at least one new flavor each week. This could be an item they’ve never eaten before or one they haven’t had in a while.
  • Include a special note, cartoon, or joke in the lunchbox.
  • Like the ideal breakfast, lunch should have lots of fiber and whole grains, some protein and healthy fat, a veggie, and just a bit of natural sugar, like a piece of fresh fruit.

Try these ideas for a little something different:

The Fun Factor

Catherine McCord of Weelicious shows you how to make kid-friendly meals more fun!

  • Whole wheat tortillas spread with peanut butter, sprinkled with raisins or dried cherries, rolled up and cut in two
  • Baked corn chips, black beans, cheese wedges and fresh pico de gallo
  • Tuna salad with grated carrots, served with crackers or in a pita
  • Cheese triangles with pepperoni and whole wheat crackers for stacking
  • Whole wheat crackers served with roasted turkey, hard-boiled eggs and pickle spears
  • Vegetarian brown rice sushi rolls with soy or ponzu sauce
  • Hummus and spinach wrap, cherry tomatoes, string cheese and any bite-sized fruit
  • Smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumbers on mini bagels
  • Chocolate almond butter with graham crackers

To give kids a sense of control and a vested interest in eating their lunches, involve them in the prep work and decision making about what goes in the lunchbox. Best to do this on the weekend or the night before to avoid the dreaded morning meltdowns.

Dynamite Dinners

Eat dinner as a family whenever possible! The studies are in and it’s clear that eating family dinners provide benefits beyond nutritional requirements. Children who eat meals with their parents have healthier eating habits than those who don’t. Families who eat together at home tend to consume less fast food and more fruits and vegetables, and preparing meals at home gives parents control over both the quality and quantity of food. Plus, it’s a great way for families to regroup and relax together.
With childhood obesity on the rise in the United States, many experts recommend:

  • Serving sensible portion sizes so kids know that “supersized” isn’t normal.
  • Helping kids understand how to eat until they are comfortably satisfied, but not stuffed.
  • Letting children serve themselves as early as age 5 so they begin to regulate portions themselves.
  • Not pressuring kids to clear their plates; encourage them to judge fullness by physical rather than visual cues.

Mac & Cheese

Catherine McCord of Weelicious cooks up a delicious batch of mac and cheese with a healthy twist!

Tips for making dinner a group effort:

  • Allow each family member to choose the menu on a regular rotation.
  • Have family members check out cookbooks or online recipe collections and choose a few new recipes to try out.
  • Set specific days of the week and times for family meals and stick to it. If something comes up, make it into a family event so you still end up sharing a meal. For example, if your daughter’s soccer game is scheduled on a family dinner night, everyone goes to the game and eats together afterward.
  • Take pride in your table. Set the table more elaborately, or have one of the kids set it for the whole family. Add cloth napkins, placemats or flowers.
  • Learn to cook with a pressure cooker or slow cooker to make meal prep easier on everyone’s schedule. You’ll return at the end of the day to a dinner that’s ready to serve.
  • Cook several meals over the weekend and refrigerate or freeze them to be reheated later in the week.
  • Mix store-prepared and homemade foods to save time and still provide complete nutrition.
  • Turn off the phone, television and other distractions. Play soothing music or light if you choose.

Rotisserie Chicken and Vegetables with Noodles

Comforting and convenient, a store-bought rotisserie chicken and a few other shortcuts means you can have this complete meal on the table in about 30 minutes.

Sausage and Quinoa
One-Pot Supper

Here, our favorite good-for-you grain is cooked in cider with smoked sausage, dried cranberries and hearty greens.

For more ideas on what to feed the whole family, check out our kid-friendly recipes.

Families

MyPlate, MyWins for Families

MyPlate, MyWins is all about finding a healthy eating style that works for your family and fits with your everyday life. The MyPlate icon is a reminder to make healthy choices from each of the five food groups, and there are many small changes you can make that add up to big success over time. Here you’ll find fun, practical tips and tools that have worked for other families. Give some a try, and discover “wins” for your own family.

Not sure where to start? Here are resources your family can use for ideas:

  1. Videos Featuring Real Families
    Hear from real families who are making healthy eating a reality in these videos. For example, follow Shelley and her two-year-old as she sets her family up for success by making little changes to her son’s diet, or see how Rocio teaches her four boys about the value of nutrition.
  2. Family-Friendly Recipe Ideas
    Check out the newly updated MyPlate Kitchen (formerly, What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl) for healthy, budget-friendly recipes you can prepare with your family.
  3. Information About Local Foods
    Learn more about the foods grown in your state, and get kids excited about trying hometown flavors.
  4. Healthy Eating on a Budget
    Use these tips and materials to make healthy choices while staying within your budget.
  5. Learn More About School Meals
    Schools today are focusing on offering a variety of fruit and vegetables and serving healthy recipes. Check out these resources to learn more about why school meals are a great choice:
    MyPlate Guide to School Breakfast
    MyPlate Guide to School Lunch
  6. Let’s Talk Trash
    Want to learn more about food loss and waste? Let’s Talk Trash includes consumer-friendly resources to help audiences think about the amount of food wasted at home. Download the infographic for posting at home, school, work, etc.

How can families help their children and teens eat healthy at school?

  • Try new foods at home. Kids need many opportunities to taste a new food to “get used to it.”
  • Eat lunch at school with your child. Learn more about what’s offered and meet school nutrition staff.
  • Encourage your child or teen to join in taste-testing events or surveys about school lunch, when available.
  • Talk with your child about what’s on the menu. Make sure they know about all the foods that are included in their school lunch.
    And during the summer, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Learn more here.

Additional Resources for Health Professionals

  • SNAP Educator’s Toolkit – MyPlate for My Family

Activities to Do With Kids

Are you looking for fun ways to teach kids about healthy eating? Try these activities, with free printables, to get the whole family on board with making healthier choices.

Preschool and Elementary-Aged Kids

  • Food Critic
    Kids are much more likely to try new foods when they get to take the lead. In this fun game, kids get to pick a new food at the grocery store, taste it, and rate it like a food critic.
  • Grocery Store Bingo
    Make your weekly errand an opportunity for your kids to learn about new foods and healthy eating choices with this printable bingo card.
  • Food Art
    Show kids that healthy foods can be beautiful and appetizing. Check out these food art examples to inspire your creativity.
  • MyPlate Printable Activities and Coloring Sheets
    Print these activity sheets for kids to learn more about healthy eating, including a coloring page, word scramble, crossword puzzle and more.
  • Blast Off Game
    In this online game, kids must fuel up their MyPlate spaceship with smart food choices and physical activity to fly to Planet Power.

Tweens and Teens

  • Kid’s Restaurant
    Let the kid(s) be the chef. Kids get to plan out the meal, design a menu for you, and prepare the dish. Use this printable template to get them started.
  • MyPlate Plan
    Enter your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level to get a personalized food plan showing what and how much to eat within your calorie allowance.
  • Grow a Garden
    Get tweens and teens involved in family meals with gardening. You can start small, with a window herb box in your kitchen or a garden in your yard.
  • Learn Where Your Food Comes From
    Helping kids learn about the source of their food and the people who produce it may motivate them to make healthy choices. Attend a local farmer’s market or farm stand as a family and gather ingredients for a meal to cook together. Find a market near you!
  • Tip Sheets for Teens
    Young people experience many changes during their tween and teen years. Building healthy food and physical activity habits will help them now and as they enter adulthood. These tips can help them take charge and learn to make their own choices.
    – 10 Tips for Girls: Eat Smart and Be Active as You Grow
    – 10 Tips for Boys: Choose the Foods You Need to Grow
  • Summer Food, Summer Moves Activity Guides for Families
    These guides provide tons of great ideas to help families be active and maintain healthy eating patterns while school is out.

Making Family Mealtimes Fun

Sitting down together for a meal whenever you can is a great way to connect with your family. Keeping it relaxed is key to making sure you are getting the most out of this time together, including talking, laughing and choosing healthy foods. Here are some tips from families for making meals more relaxed in your home:

  • Remove distractions. Turn off the television and put away phones and tablets, so that your attention is on each other.
  • Talk to each other. Focus conversation on what family members did during the day, for example, what made you laugh or what you did for fun. Other conversation starters include:
    • Give each family member the spotlight to share their highlight, lowlight, and “funnylight” from the day or week.
    • If our family lived in a zoo, what animals would we be and why?
    • If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
    • If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one food to eat, what would it be and why?
  • Pass on traditions. Tell children about the “good old days” such as foods grandma made that you loved to eat.
  • Let kids make choices. Set a healthy table and let everyone, including the kids, make choices about what they want and how much to eat.
  • Let everyone help. Kids learn by doing. The little one might get the napkins and older kids help with fixing foods and clean‐up.
  • Make-your-own dishes like tacos, mini pizzas, and yogurt parfaits get everyone involved in meal time.
  • On nice days, opt for a change of scenery. For example, go to a nearby park for a dinner picnic.
  • Reserve a special plate to rotate between family members, for example on birthdays, when someone gets a good grade, or any other occasion you’d like to recognize.

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