Feeding our children healthy foods is a huge responsibility, but not impossible. Meals provide your rapid-growing child with necessary nutrients and energy, which can help develop healthy bodies. 

As parents, we can help our children develop good eating habits that will last throughout their lives.  

With a little creative planning and perseverance, you can set your family on the road to good health with meals that are as healthy as they are delicious – all while whipping that dinner in a snap.

Here is how you can make it happen:

Variety of Foods and Colors:

Making a balanced meal is actually pretty simple. Most balanced meals include a mix of foods (each providing a different color) at each meal and over a few days. Your child needs a variety of foods from within each group to ensure balanced meals.

A healthy mind and body needs variety - fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, dairy, and healthy oils every day.  

Here is how to add variety in the plate: For example, take a diner plate; imagine that you are dividing the plate among four squares.  Divide as follows: one square for meat, another square for fruits, another for vegetables, the last square for grains and leave a space outside the plate for dairy.  But, you can substitute meat for beans, grains for potatoes, milk for yogurt, etc.  

Need more help? Go to www.choosemyplate.gov for more nutrition information.

Getting Creative while going Fast:

The key is to plan ahead.  Creating a meal plan for the week is a great tool when it comes to healthful eating; it will help you to think before desperation sets in.  Developing weekly meal plans and sticking to a shopping list helps keep you on track. Prep the ingredients the night before so you can tackle dinner immediately upon arrival.

Moderation is Key:

Your child’s stomach is small and needs age-appropriate portions at meals and snacks.  Don’t force your child to eat, but let them stop eating when they’re full and teach them to say “no thanks” once they have reached their limit.  

Telling kids to eat nutritious foods is one thing; showing them is the best teacher.  And don’t forget that the family table also promotes family bonding; a time to talk and listen to create family memories.

Below is one of my favorite fast dinners:

GRILLED TILAPIA WITH CITRUS SAUCE
Fish steaks marinated in a tropical sauce

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

4 fresh tilapia or your favorite white fish steaks
Juice of 1 lime
Juice 1 tangerine
Juice of 1 orange
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Preheat grill to medium heat.
2. In a glass pan, marinate fish steaks with remaining ingredients, for a minimum of 5 minutes.  
3. On a medium heated grill, grill steaks for 5 minutes on each side or until fish is fully cooked.  Serve with grilled corn, zucchini and tomatoes.

Sylvia Meléndez Klinger, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, is founder of Hispanic Food Communications, a food communications and culinary consulting company based in Hinsdale, Ill. She is Hispanic and uses her in-depth culinary and cultural expertise to introduce new strategies for wellness to an increasingly health-conscious Hispanic population. For more on her, go to hispanicfoodcommunications.com.

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