Healthy eating chart: Helping your kids get what they need

You want your kids to eat a variety of healthy foods, but actually getting them to do it can be difficult and frustrating, which makes a healthy eating chart a fun and easy way to keep you both on track. Many parents give in and serve up the same meals over and over because they know their kids will eat them. The problem is that many of kids’ favorites aren’t that healthy. This includes chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and pizza. You don’t have to skip them all the time, but it is important to balance out your child’s diet to ensure that he gets the nutrients he needs to grow and develop. Creating a healthy eating chart allows your child to receive recognition for trying new foods and also helps you track what he’s eaten throughout the day so you know whether he needs an extra serving of fruit at dinner or a glass of milk with his snack.

A double-purposed healthy eating chart lets you give your child the chance to taste new and different foods and helps him track how many servings of each food group he’s eaten during the day. For the first part of the healthy eating chart, simply make a grid on a piece of paper. Fill it in with foods you commonly serve, but that your child has always refused. Each time he tries one of those items, place a sticker in one square and write the food he tried under it. If he liked it, draw a happy face, and if he didn’t, draw a sad face. This way, next time you serve something he liked, you can show him that it was something he wants to eat again. Say, you’re having tamales and he turns his nose up at them. Get out the chart and show him that last time you gave him a tamale, he gave it a happy face. Chances are higher that he’ll be willing to gobble them up again.

The second part of your healthy eating chart should contain one section for each food group. Make a square or circle for each one and label them fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Each time your child eats a serving from each food group, mark the appropriate section on the healthy eating chart. Use stickers, check marks, or happy faces to track your progress. At each meal, check to see which food groups your child is lacking in and serve something from that food group at the meal. For example, if your child is low in the vegetable group, add a scoop of guacamole to his quesadilla at dinner time. This is also a great way to teach your child which foods belong in which food group.