Healthy Diet Guide for Parents of Active Children

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

A healthy diet is important for every family member, regardless of age, gender, activity level, or athletic involvement, and associated with:

  • Improved cardiovascular health, including better blood flow, delivery of oxygen and blood pressure.
  • Improved respiratory function.
  • A stronger immune system.
  • Stronger bones and muscles.
  • Improved metabolism to keep the body burning calories.

Parents of active children should encourage their families to develop healthy lifestyle habits such as:

  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Using herbs, spices, and citrus juices, instead of salt, to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • The importance of enjoying healthy meals with family and friends.


Always provide:

  • Whole grains: plain old-fashioned oatmeal, shredded wheat, wheat berries, quinoa, breads, whole wheat or spelt pasta, brown rice
  • Lean protein: organic eggs; quinoa; legumes ( A class of vegetables that include lentils, peas, and beans.); low-fat yogurt, kefir, milk; fish low in mercury and other contaminants such as Arctic Char, wild Alaskan salmon, wild Pacific cod and halibut, mahi mahi, tilapia from the U.S.A.; chicken and red meat trimmed of fat and baked, broiled, roasted, cooked in stews, or grilled.
  • Healthy fats: olive oil, hummus, wheat germ, avocados, organic or natural almond and peanut butter, unsalted nuts and seeds.
  • Vegetables: asparagus, carrots, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, collards, kale, turnips, mustard greens, spinach, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes.
  • Fruits: orange and grapefruit segments, bananas, berries, apples, pears, plums.
  • Drinks: water served throughout the day, low-fat organic milk.

Sometimes provide:

  • Prepared foods: baked chicken tenders, deli turkey, wholesome frozen meals.
  • Packaged “healthy” snacks: raisins, baby carrots, whole grain crackers and pretzels, cereal or nutrition bars (made without brown rice syrup which was recently found to contain arsenic), low-calorie ice cream or Stoneyfield organic nonfat frozen yogurt, peanut-butter crackers.
  • Sports drinks (while playing sports).
  • Canned goods: low-sodium, all natural, and preferably organic soups, vegetables, fruit, apple sauce.

Rarely provide:

  • Drinks: soda, sweet tea, fruit juices, lemonade, Kool-Aid and other “drinks”.
  • Candy: Chocolate bars, hard candy, sugary gum.
  • Highly processed foods: Pop-Tarts, “kids” cereals, cakes, cookies, danish, donuts, cheese doodles, potato chips, reduced-calorie snack packs.
  • High saturated-fat foods: bacon, sausage, most fast food, cakes, cookies, danish, donuts, hot dogs, pizza.

Never provide:

  • Processed white-flour foods: white bread, white crackers.
  • Drinks: Caffeinated energy drinks (Red Bull, Monster, 5-hour Energy).
  • Snack cakes: Twinkies, Devil Dogs, Swiss Rolls, Tastycakes.
  • Deep-fried processed foods: ramen noodles, chicken nuggets.
  • Vegetable oils: Coconut oil, palm oil, trans fats such any partially-hydrogenated oils.

*Try to select U.S.D.A. or certified organic fruits, vegetables, and dairy foods, as well as, lean meats without hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals, whenever possible. Remember to set a good example by choosing healthful foods for yourself and the rest of the family, and encourage age-appropriate play and exercise each day to help your child develop strength, flexibility, good movement patterns, and body control.



  1. Diane. “The Mediterranean Diet: Delicious, Nutritious, and Heart-Healthy.” 12/31/11.
  2. Goodson, Amy. “Mom, I’m Hungry! Your Guide to a Kid’s Diet.” Golf Digest. May, 2012. p. 64. (Additional Source:

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