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Healthy eating for families

May 9, 2017
Elizabeth Metheny , MOV Parent

Healthy eating is just one way to help you and your family be happier and healthier. By eating a variety of foods through a balanced diet you open the door to creating food experiences and developing healthy lifelong eating habits.

Why should healthy eating be encouraged?

Healthy eating is just one way to set your family on the track to a healthy future. Eating a diet full of nutrient rich foods will reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. As a parent you can work together with your children to create a healthy home.

How do I encourage my children to eat healthy foods?

From the moment we first feed our little ones, we should be thinking about health and nutrition. The first few months of feeding breast milk or formula seem easy compared to the adventures of starting solid foods at 6 months. It's important to introduce new foods and textures while baby is developing an understanding of food. Start one new food at a time to eliminate any concerns about allergies and to identify what your baby likes and dislikes. Most importantly, try new foods several days in a row. Your child may be spitting out his/her new foods because it's different, not because he/she doesn't enjoy it. If your child continues to reject a new food, take a break and return to that food in several weeks. He or she may enjoy it the second time around. Dismiss the idea that certain foods are for adults and others for children. Good, healthy, and nutritious foods are for every age. In fact, some of the easiest foods to prepare are the healthiest. Snacks such as apples, oranges, pears, cheese, and yogurt are just a few quick grab-and-go items that older children can prepare for themselves. Keep these healthy snacks available. Surrounding yourself with fresh healthy foods will create an environment of healthy eating. When it comes to meals, prepare for the family and enjoy it together. Using the My Plate method is an easy way to create a healthy meal.

So what's My Plate?

My Plate replaced the food pyramid that many of you may remember from your childhood: it is a quick way to remember what foods you should eat at every meal. Simply remembering that half your plate should be fruits and vegetables, with a serving of grains and meat, and a side of dairy will get you a long way. My Plate also has placemats and plates available to remind you and your little one. Visit for menu ideas, coloring sheets, tips for parents and children, and many more resources.

Involve the Family in Meal Preparation

But...I Don't Like That!

As adults we also have likes and dislikes when it comes to food. Try not to push your dislike for a food on your children. Every person is different, right down to their taste buds. A food your child may love, might not be your favorite. This might seem like a hard task, but it isn't impossible. Prepare these foods in different ways. It is also important to encourage your children and yourself to try new foods or foods you haven't enjoyed in the past. Saying, "I don't like it" might be because it is new and different. Remember to try it, you might like it.

Sweets Are Treats

Don't keep items like cookies and candy at home. We all enjoy thosesweet foods and sugary snacks, but an excess of sugar in our diet can increase our risk of obesity. It's all about moderation when enjoying these treats. Sharing with your children that sweets are "sometimes foods" will allow them to enjoy traditions such as cake at a birthday party or pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but limit those foods throughout the year. Drink water throughout the day, milk with meals, and just one glass of juice per day. Sugar-sweetened beverages such as tea, fruit drinks, and soda increase your risk of obesity and impact your dental health. By keeping these beverage out of your home, you limit the amount you and your family will drink. Still looking for something sweet? Try fruit infused water:

Pineapple Orange

1/4 pineapple

1/2 orange

1 gallon of water

Slice the pineapple. Leave the peel on the orange slices. You may be able to add water 2 to 3 times before flavor is gone.

Strawberry Kiwi

5 strawberries

2 kiwi fruits

1 gallon of water

Slice the strawberries and kiwi before adding to water to release flavor.

Check out more fruit infused water recipes from WVU Extension Service's Families and Health program:

Need an idea for a new recipe? Try new foods in new ways. You can find more recipes at

Pineapple Pork

(Serves 4)

1 medium green pepper

4 boneless pork chops

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 can pineapple chunks or 8 ounces undrained

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Cut green pepper into strips. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Place pork chop on the heated skillet and sprinkle salt on top. Cook the pork for 5 minutes on low heat on each side. The pork should lose its pink color when it is cooked. Remove the cooked pork from the skillet and place in a serving dish. Put the green pepper slices in the skillet. Stir in the pineapple with their juice. Stir in ginger and cinnamon. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Spoon onto pork.

Broccoli Potato Soup

(Serves 4)

4 cups broccoli, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

4 cups chicken/vegetable broth (low sodium)

1 cup evaporated milk, nonfat

1 cup mashed potatoes, instant

1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine broccoli, onion, and broth in large sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add milk to soup and slowly stir in potatoes. Cook, stirring constantly until bubbly and thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in more milk or water if soup becomes too thick. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cheese on top of each serving.

Elizabeth Metheny is a WVU Extension Service Agent for Hardy County.



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