Healthy eating can be a challenge, especially given the kind of year we just had. We quickly saw it become harder and harder to keep the fridge and pantry stocked with healthier alternatives, and it became all too easy to grab the quick and often less healthy options just to keep on hand. Good nutrition is important for everyone, and early childhood nutrition is no exception.

One of the benefits of starting healthy eating habits early is that younger healthy eaters tend to grow up to be older healthy eaters. Whenever we start this trend earlier, we are able to influence the long-term eating habits of children. In addition to that, starting healthy and varied diets early in life is great because we can capture that child-like wonder and curiosity and let the child become interested in new and healthy foods without always needing that push.

Looking forward to the rest of 2021, let’s try and turn around some of those unhealthy eating habits that formed over the last year. Let’s make more of an emphasis on good, healthy, and nutrition packed meals and snacks for us and the children in our lives.

So what are some ways for us to do that? Let’s take a look at three easy to implement ideas.

Add healthier and fresher options to the grocery list/meal prep list.

When we shop with a grocery list, often we are more conscious of the types of food we are buying as opposed to just popping in the store to grab something. A grocery list gets us thinking about the whole meal and what we need, rather than just what we want. It is also the perfect time to think about adding some healthier options to the list. Planning ahead of time will make sure that we can grab those tasty and healthy options and put them in the cart, even before we get distracted by the not so healthy options.

Add more variety to the healthy options.

There are so many healthy foods that we leave off our grocery lists and out of our carts because we simply aren’t conscious of them or we don’t know what to make with them. A little trick for better nutrition is to try and have as many colors on your plate as possible per meal. The variety helps bring about nutritional coverage. Try to have some greens, reds, browns on every plate. If you can incorporate fruit into your meal, then it becomes really easy to add some blue and purples in there also. Snack time is also a great time to add some of those other colors as well, like orange and yellow. Next time you are grocery shopping, look at some of the fruits and vegetables all across the color spectrum and think of ways to incorporate them into your meals and snacks. Another fun thing about a colorful plate is that, well, it’s fun! Kids will love to see all the colors, and you could even make a game out of it!

Emphasize healthier options when grabbing food on the go.

Very often you may find it necessary to grab some food while you are out and about. Oftentimes, a quick bite to eat on the road is not always the healthiest option. That’s okay, because there are still opportunities for making healthier choices even in these moments. Try and find options that include fruit or veggies as a side or main component, and get water as a drink. There are plenty of options on the menu, and this is a perfect time to get creative and get your child excited to try a healthier option.

Healthy eating is a fantastic habit always, and even better whenever we can start the trend earlier in life. Hopefully these few tips can help you and the children in your life have healthier alternatives to everyday meals and situations. For more information, please check out the meal and snack planning ideas on the 4-C website.  Child care providers might also be interested in the 4-C food program that helps support serving nutritious meals and snacks to children in care.