Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Ten ways parents can help kids make good nutritional choices

Image of a colorful plate outlining the portions and serving sizes of each type of food. Click to open a larger version of the image. The Health and Wellness Center at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, offers portion control plates to assist in healthier eating practices. Each meal should include protein, vegetables, fruits, and a grain, with each serving approximately the size of a fist (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany Murphy.)

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health | Nutritional Fitness

Nutrition is a critical element in the Total Force Fitness strategy to main a medically ready force. It plays a big part in the force’s overall readiness and performance because the nutritional choices we make affect every aspect of life, including sleep, mood, and performance.

“Eating healthy can empower individuals to make good choices, which influences both readiness and their overall health,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Melissa Amescua, a registered dietitian and manager of the Navy nutrition program at the 21st Century Sailor Office. “Eating healthy keeps us mentally prepared and physically fueled to take on any situation that comes at us at any time.”

For children, its important parents and caretakers set the example by eating healthy with their kids and by providing healthy foods for the children to eat. “Food provides our children with energy to grow, concentrate, the ability to play, and to perform,” she said. “All things that are needed for them to be successful in school and at home.”

Keeping children healthy by providing the right foods for them is also critical for prevention. “Our brain needs good nutrition to manage stress, maintain alertness, and optimize physical and cognitive performance,” said Amescua. “Mentally, just like our warfighters, they can perform so much better with nourishment because the food they consume affects their brain development.” 

Additionally, “not eating healthy can lead to being more overweight and obese, which also increases the need for more medical care and the risk for musculoskeletal injuries,” she said. “It puts us at risk for having a diagnosis such as diabetes or heart disease and even puts us at risk for getting viruses such as COVID-19.”

The expert noted it’s not only important to make smart choices about what we feed kids, but also how much we feed them – portion sizes make a difference.

“Children should be eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, dairy, and lean proteins,” she said. “Avoiding or limiting foods daily that are high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and many pre-packed processed foods may also need to be limited.”

To meet their nutritional needs, she said most children should eat three meals and at least one snack during the day. Resources such as myplate.gov and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans can help make smarter choices.

Additionally, Amescua recommends the 10 tips below for military parents and families to encourage kids to make smarter nutritional choices:

  1. Be a role model. Children are more likely to eat foods that their parents eat while they are growing up. This means if the parent does not eat brussels sprouts, then nine times out of 10 the kids won’t either. To get kids to choose healthy foods, adult family members must choose them too.
  2. Encourage drinking water. Ensure your child is drinking water throughout the day, understanding that if they have juice that 4 ounces or half a cup of 100% juice is a serving. Kids who drink soda, energy drinks, or some types of juices consume mostly sugar and other ingredients such as caffeine that they do not need. These drinks encourage obesity, poor attentiveness, and even decrease calcium consumption.
  3. Portion control. Your portion is not always their portion. Understand what a portion size looks like for you and for them, so they do not consume more than what their small bodies need. Excess calories can cause weight gain.
  4. Make time for family mealtime. Research shows that families that eat together live a healthier lifestyle. Family meals can help prevent obesity because they eat more slowly and talk more.
  5. Eat breakfast. Encouraging your child to have a healthy breakfast daily can help with how they perform in school during the day. Breakfast equals brain power.
  6. Choose healthy snacks for kids. Most children eat at least one snack per day. Use snack time to increase fruits and vegetable intake, keep different healthy snacks available, and avoid processed foods and added sugars when possible.
  7. Teach your children to eat a rainbow of colors. Different foods provide different vitamins and minerals that are very important. Talk about where food comes from and how it helps nourish their bodies.
  8. Don’t give up with those picky eaters. It can take 10 to 15 times for a child to like a new food – if they do not like it now do not give up. Implement the two-bite rule, where they must at least try the food. Remember children’s tastebuds change as they get older: When they are young, they are very strong, hence they do not like many foods, but the older they get the more likely they are to like new foods in different ways.
  9. Avoid using food as a reward. If parents give ice cream or a dessert as a reward for good grades or good behavior, it enforces unhealthy behaviors of eating every time they do well. Instead of giving them a sweet treat, buy them a new book, toy, or take them to a movie or find time to do their favorite activity with them.
  10. Involve them in meal planning, grocery shopping, and filling their lunch box. The more children feel a part of the meal and that they contributed to it, the more likely they will eat it with others. Also, remember to ask them to try new foods and incorporate their ideas into the meal preparation.

You also may be interested in...

Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Current Events

Article
4/29/2022
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Rocio Romo, public affairs specialist at Space Launch Delta 30, spends quality time with her son at Cocheo Park on Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. We celebrate Month of the Military Child in April to celebrate military children whose parents serve the United States. (Photo: U.S. Space Force Airman 1st Class Kadielle Shaw)

Parents can help reassure children who are troubled by news events they see on TV and social media.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health | Psychological Fitness

Helping Your Child to Cope with Grief and Losses Related to COVID-19

Article
4/28/2022
Shirley Lanham Elementary School students perform Taiko drumming during a Month of the Military Child celebration aboard the Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, April 6, 2022. (Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Ange-Olivier Clement, Naval Air Facility Atsugi)

Many military children have lost loved ones to COVID-19. How parents can help with the grief.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health | Psychological Fitness | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

Healthy Living, One Bite At A Time

Article Around MHS
4/26/2022
Plate of food

One of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle is nutrition and diet. The food you eat is arguably the most important part toward healthy living, also it shapes how you feel and perform.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness

How to Help Military Children Reconnect After Two Years of the Pandemic

Article
4/25/2022
Airman 1st Class Rocio Romo, Space Launch Delta 30 public affairs specialist, and her son pose for a photo at Cocheo Park on Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, March 25, 2022. During the month of April, we celebrate Month of the Military Child to highlight the sacrifices military children make on the home front while their parents serve the United States. (Photo: Airman Kadielle Shaw, Space Launch Delta 30 Public Affairs)

How parents can help children stressed by more than two years of COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health | Psychological Fitness | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

DoD recognizes resilient military children

Article Around MHS
4/22/2022
Military personnel with their kids

Military children are no strangers to challenges and grow to be resilient from the difficulties they experience. April is designated by the Department of Defense as Month of the Military Child to honor and recognize the sacrifices military children face.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids

Celebrating Military Children

Article Around MHS
4/19/2022
April is Month of the Military Child

April is Month of the Military Child

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health

Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Nurse Powerlifts Her Way to Winner's Podium

Article
4/19/2022
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Holly Vickers competed in the United States Powerlifting Association’s Virginia Beach Classic on March 26, 2022, taking home the top spot for her weight class. Photo used with permission from DVXT Images. (Photo: Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Public Affairs)

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Holly Vickers competed in the United States Powerlifting Association’s Virginia Beach Classic on March 26, 2022, taking home the top spot for her weight class.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness

Kids' Teeth Grinding Usually Stops Around Age 9 or 10 - But Not Always

Article
4/15/2022
A child receives dental treatment during the “Give Kids a Smile” day event March 9, 2019, held by the 375th Dental Squadron clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Children registered for the event were given the chance to receive cleanings, fillings, and more at no cost to their parents. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Isaiah Gonzalez, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs)

Do you ever see or hear your child grinding his or her teeth or clenching his or her jaws during the day or at night while sleeping? That’s a potentially serious health problem. Teeth grinding in kids may require a night guard.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health | TRICARE Dental Care

8 Tips to Help Kids Adjust to Change during the New Pandemic Phase

Article
4/15/2022
A parent comforts his child while she receives a pediatric dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 28, 2022. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte, 18th Wing Public Affairs)

Parents should prepare their kids for the new normal of the ongoing pandemic, recognizing that the status of the disease can change quickly as new variants of COVID-19 emerge.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus | Children's Health

Thank you for being a Military Kid

Video
4/12/2022
Thank you for being a Military Kid

Military parents read letters to their children, thanking them for all they do to support the mission. Thank you for being a military kid. Thank you for being resilient and supportive throughout our many years of service. Thank you for helping Mommy around the house and being so strong when I have to be gone for days, weeks or months at a time. Changing states, homes, schools and activities isn't easy. But you took it as a new adventure. The courage you have by going to three different schools in three years really makes me look up to you. I am blessed, thankful and grateful to have such beautiful and handsome, loving kids who not only support me but each other while I'm away. You are the reason why I work so hard. Thank you for always keeping your spirit. Most of all, thank you for being you. Your smiles, laughs and love are what I've gotten me through every day. I love you. And thank you for everything you do. This video was originally created for a 2019 Military Kids Connect campaign.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health

It’s not a new year’s resolution – it’s National Nutrition Month

Article Around MHS
4/8/2022
Military personnel holding papers

The 60th Medical Group Nutritional Medicine outpatient nutrition clinic and Health Promotion Services have partnered together for multiple events across base highlighting March as National Nutrition Month.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness

MOMC Badge

Infographic
4/5/2022
MOMC Badge

Use this Month of the Military Child badge as an overlay to create your own local MOMC social media posts.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids

MOMC Purple Up

Infographic
4/5/2022
MOMC Purple Up

#PurpleUp today! Wear purple to show support for the military kids in your life today, and to honor the strength, resiliency and sheer might of Military Kids around the globe! https://health.mil/MKCHome #MOMC #CopingWithLoss #MonthoftheMilitaryChild #MilKids

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids

MOMC Talk About It

Infographic
4/5/2022
MOMC Talk About It

Communication is key to helping kids cope with loss, disruption, or grief. https://sesamestreetincommunities.org/activities/when-children-worry/ #MOMC #CopingWithLoss #MonthoftheMilitaryChild #MilKids

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids

MOMC Coping with Loss 3

Infographic
4/5/2022
MOMC Coping with Loss 3

The past two years have been tough for everyone, especially kids. Here are tips for how to help your children process the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and adjust to the new normal. #MOMC #CopingWithLoss #MonthoftheMilitaryChild #MilKids https://sesamestreetincommunities.org/activities/when-children-worry/

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 11

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.