YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Children require a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and meats to support optimal growth. Danielle Dimengo is a registered dietician and certified diabetes specialist with Akron Children’s Hospital. She says referring to is helpful.

“That promotes a balanced plate. So when we have half of our plate made up of fruits and vegetables, a fourth of the plate whole grains, a fourth of the plate lean protein. And then, about three servings a day of a calcium-rich food source,” said Dimengo.

Dimengo says it is best to start creating good habits early on.

“I think it’s harder to break bad habits like later on, and definitely, if we are not exposing our young children, toddlers, to new foods and tastes, and they develop picky eating habits, it’s a lot harder to reverse that as they get older,” said Dimengo.

She explains once you build healthy eating habits in your child, it will help them when they’re older.

“Having those healthy food options and promoting a balanced meal or plate, you know like inside the home, or like when we’re out to eat as a family. Now as they get older, and teens are going out to eat with their friends, they might be more likely to make healthy food choices,” Dimengo said.

Making healthy choices early on can impact your long-term health.

“Incorporating a balanced eating pattern, similar to a Mediterranean eating pattern, establishing those healthy habits early on and continuing those throughout the life span definitely reduces your risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease,” explained Dimengo.

She says there are fun ways to help your child eat healthily.

“So maybe kind of sneaking it in in ways of you know — pureeing it into sauces, different vegetables like carrots into a tomato sauce, butternut squash or sweet potatoes into mac and cheese, cauliflower into mashed potatoes.”

Dimengo says the more colors, the better.