Focus Areas

Children need proper nutrition to grow and succeed

Parents are the most important influence in their child’s lives – and that influence includes food and physical activity choices.

As a parent, you have the opportunity to directly influence your child’s behaviors and create a lifelong, healthy eater.


Healthy eating should be about positive choices, focusing on foods that provide the nutrients you need to maintain good health.

Healthy eating and good nutrition start by making nutrient-rich, healthy food choices (foods with large amounts of vitamins and minerals in fewer calories) from all of the food groups. Choosing a variety of nutrient-rich foods as the foundation of what you eat can help you live a longer, healthier life.

And take time – as frequently as possible – to eat together. Children who eat with their families regularly tend to eat healthier and have better nutritional status than those who do not. Family meals don’t have to be fancy or limited to dinner: Eating breakfast together as a family is a great way to start the day. And just sitting down and eating as family is nearly as important as the food itself. When family and friends come together to share a meal, they are sharing more than just food: Shared meals create time for connection and learning. Family meals are also linked to improved language skills, better academic performance and a reduced risk of substance abuse and behavioral issues. The time spent together during a meal can also be a great time to engage your children about school and ask questions about what they learned.

Get hints and tips on nutrition with our email alerts, and stay in touch your local PTA for the latest information on nutritional programs at your school.


farmersmarketBalance calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1-percent) milk.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains

Foods to reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.


  • Get ideas — When children are involved in the planning process they’ll be more likely to eat what is prepared. Ask your children and other family members what foods they would like to eat during the week. It will also be easier to get help with the meal preparation and clean-up process if their food preferences are considered. Search for delicious recipes to get more ideas.
  • Plan by personality Do you combine fresh and convenience foods to make the meal faster? Is cooking something you enjoy and don’t mind spending time doing? Do you prefer to cook from scratch or do you rely on frozen and canned foods such as frozen broccoli or, canned tomatoes or beans to make the meal easier to prepare? Take the Food Personality Quiz to determine your cooking style, then get recipe recommendations and personalized shopping lists.
  • Keep healthy food on hand Adding meal staples to your shopping list makes it easier to create quick meals on busy nights. Make sure your pantry, cupboards, refrigerator and freezer are stocked with healthy foods from all of the food groups like milk, cheese, tomatoes, garlic, onions, apples, bananas, bread, cereal, pasta, rice, tortillas, beans, etc. Remember, the food you have on hand will determine how healthfully you eat so, choose wisely.
  • Shop once for the week — Once you’ve made a list of the recipes you’re planning to prepare, including snacks and staples, make a list of all the ingredients that you will need to prepare these meals. Make sure your list includes nutrient-rich foods from all the food groups, then check your pantry and refrigerator to see what you may already have on hand. Make adjustments to your list and take your list to the store.