Back to episodes


Healthy Meals for Kids, Season 3, Episode 1

Do you worry if your child is getting enough nutrients? Or maybe you know that your kiddo is supposed to “eat healthy” but don’t exactly know what that means. In this episode, learn how to put together a nutritious meal for your little ones. Plus discover helpful tools you can use to budget and plan meals for the family.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez sits down with Alan Brown, the WIC Training Manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services in the Bureau of Nutrition and Physical Activity. Alan shares his knowledge as a registered dietitian to help you build a nutrient-filled meal plan for your family.

Podcast Resources:
Arizona Health Zone
Arizona WIC Program
Arizona SNAP
Strong Families AZ
Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez
Podcast Credits:

host Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez is the Chief of the Office of Children’s Health at the Arizona Department of Health Services. She is married, has two young children, and loves reading (anything except parenting books!) and watching movies and TV. She loves to spend time with her kids (when they aren’t driving her crazy) and celebrating all of their little, and big, accomplishments. Jessica has been in the field of family and child development for over 20 years, working towards normalizing the hard work of parenting and making it easier to ask the hard questions

host Guest: Alan Brown is the WIC Training Manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services in the Bureau of Nutrition and Physical Activity.


[00:00:00] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Welcome to the Parenting Brief. I’m your host, Jessica Stewart Gonzalez, an Arizona working mom and Chief of the Office of Children’s Health at the Arizona Department of Health Services. Within just a few minutes, this podcast gives parents the tools they need to tackle the tasks of creating a happy, healthy life for their little ones.

[00:00:28] Thank you for tuning in to [00:00:30] this episode of the Parenting Brief. Parents with young children know that mealtime can be tricky, but making sure your kids are eating nutritious foods is an important part of their development. We have talked about food in other episodes of the podcast related to picky eaters and transitioning to table food, and they’re still so much more to talk about .

[00:00:49] Today we are going to understand what a balanced meal looks like and tips and tricks on how to pull it all together.[00:01:00]

[00:01:00] Our guest today is no stranger to our show. Alan Brown has covered our other nutrition related topics and I’m excited to have him with us again today. Alan is the WIC training manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services in the Bureau of Nutrition and Physical activity. he’s also a registered dietician nutritionist who knows all about healthy eating.

[00:01:20] Alan, thank you so much for joining us again today.

[00:01:22] Alan Brown: It’s my pleasure, and thanks for having me back.

[00:01:25] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Most parents have heard that kids need to have access to healthy and balanced food. [00:01:30] What exactly does that mean, or what does that look like for a toddler?

[00:01:35] Alan Brown: So for a toddler, I mean I, as I’ve talked about many times in this program before, I’m a big proponent of first focusing on family meals.

[00:01:45] So to me, before you even start talking about like what should or shouldn’t a child be eating, to me the most important thing is just to really focus on making sure that you’re having pleasant family meals together. And once you feel like those are well established and [00:02:00] you’re consistently having meals and snacks together as a family.

[00:02:04] Then I think farther down the line, you can really start to focus more on what exactly should you and shouldn’t you be including in those meals.

[00:02:12] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: And once they get to that point of being able to focus on making sure that, you know, the food on the plate is nutritious and balanced, what are they looking for or aiming for once they reach that point?

[00:02:25] Alan Brown: Yeah, great question. So I am a proponent of [00:02:30] the Choose MyPlate. Which for many of you who aren’t familiar, choose MyPlate, is the progression of the food pyramid. So I think many of us are familiar with the food pyramid, the idea that all these different components, you know, fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, dairy. That those are the building blocks of nutritious diet.

[00:02:52] And so I think it was about 2011 or 12 or something like that, that they started changing the imagery [00:03:00] of what that nutritious diet looks like and picturing it as a plate. So if you look at the Choose MyPlate image, you’ll see this, it’s cut down the middle and you’ll see that half of the plate is comprised of fruits and vegetables, and the other half of the plate is comprised of protein and grains. And then you’ll see pictured on the top right is an image of a glass of milk, which is meant to represent the dairy component. So to me, some of the most important takeaways are to try and have half [00:03:30] of your plate or half of all of the foods that you eat, be fruits and vegetables. And then one of the most important takeaways for me is focusing on whole grain foods.

[00:03:40] So for any of the listeners who aren’t familiar, if you look at the packages of foods, they’ll try to trick you sometimes and they’ll say things like whole grain on the front of the package. But what you really wanna do, flip the package around, look at the actual ingredient list, and you’re looking for the first word to say whole. That could be [00:04:00] whole wheat, whole oat whole barley, whatever . That’s the best indication that the primary ingredient in that food is actually a whole grain. And in short, whole grain foods offer a significant increase in vitamins and minerals compared to enriched grain products, refined grain products.

[00:04:19] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: I think making it that super simple, that image. And you know, just that focus on those whole grains that everything else kind of falls into place [00:04:30] as opposed to trying to get into the nitty gritty of every single type of food that, you know, really, if we’re just following these guidelines, this, you know, choose MyPlate imagery, that everything else kind of just should work.

[00:04:43] Alan Brown: Yeah, and one of the, one of the most important things I stressed, and I believe I’ve mentioned this before on the program, is that it really is essential for caregivers to focus on feeding foods that they enjoy themselves. I think a lot of caregivers, they feel like this pressure to [00:05:00] try to provide their children with the most nutritious foods, even though they themselves don’t eat them.

[00:05:06] So for example, things like, you know, kale and Brussels sprouts and quinoa, and so they’re pushing these foods on their children, but at the same time on their plates they’re putting, you know, sandwiches and macaroni and cheese and that is almost always gonna set you up for failure. So what you wanna do is just, like I said, focus on feeding foods that you genuinely enjoy.

[00:05:28] That should be the [00:05:30] caregiver’s role in feeding kids, is to decide what foods should be offered and then of those foods, letting the child decide how much to eat of those foods that are offered.

[00:05:42] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Time and money are two of the biggest challenges that we hear from parents regarding mealtime. What are some ways to create a healthy meal for busy parents on a budget?

[00:05:52] Alan Brown: There’s a great website. It’s called , and this is a website that has tons of healthy recipes, many of [00:06:00] which are designed to be eaten on a budget. Now just beyond that, a lot of people have this perception that eating healthy can’t be done on a budget. I disagree. I think there’s a lot of foods that can be very nutritious and also inexpensive.

[00:06:17] So for example, you know, one of the first ones that comes to mind are things like. Whole grain brown rice, they can get a giant 10 pound bag for $10 and that will last many families for months. [00:06:30] Also, I’m a big proponent of frozen foods as well. There’s tons and tons of really inexpensive, frozen vegetables and frozen fruits that can easily be incorporated into things like smoothies or meals and snacks. And the nice part about frozen foods is that they are oftentimes picked at the peak of their freshness and immediately frozen and preserved. So they oftentimes are gonna be higher in nutrient value and they store in the freezer. So you don’t have to worry about them [00:07:00] rotting sometimes the way some people unfortunately end up wasting food if it’s fresh foods and vegetables.

[00:07:06] So those are some of the first tips that come to mind.

[00:07:08] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: That’s a great tip. I think that we do have that perception that like, if it’s not fresh, then it’s not as good, but frozen foods and being able to keep some of those foods frozen and be able to use them and that they haven’t lost their nutritional value is a great tip.

[00:07:27] Alan Brown: Yeah, and canned as well. I mean, there’s lots of great [00:07:30] canned options as well, for sure.

[00:07:32] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Are there other resources that might be available to support families in accessing healthy?

[00:07:37] Alan Brown: Yeah, absolutely. Like I work for the Arizona WIC program and we, in my mind, are an incredible resource for Arizona families. Obviously, you have to meet the requirements in order to be considered eligible for our program, but. We provide access to a wide variety of healthy foods and think about like some of the staple foods like fruits, vegetables, [00:08:00] milk, bread, tortillas, grains, eggs, cheese. A lot of like what you would think of as like the, you know, essential staples of that MyPlate diet.

[00:08:13] The same can also be said for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Many people still know it as the food stamp program. They haven’t used stamps for quite some time. Now, the SNAP program, it doesn’t have a lot of the same restrictions, and that’s a good and a bad thing. [00:08:30] So with Snap, families are able to choose with very few restrictions, whatever foods they like to eat at the grocery store.

[00:08:38] So I would highly encourage families to apply to the SNAP program to the Arizona WIC program as great resources for getting access to healthy foods as well as a big reason that I am such a huge proponent of our program, the Arizona WIC program, is because we also provide nutrition, education, breastfeeding education, and resources to go along with the healthy [00:09:00] foods that we offer.

[00:09:01] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Wonderful. Thank you so much for joining us today, Alan. I really appreciate it.

[00:09:06] Alan Brown: Yeah, it’s been my pleasure.

[00:09:15] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Learn how to build a nutritious meal plan for your little one by visiting the links in the show notes. While you’re there, follow the show on this podcast player. That way you’ll be the first to get every new episode. If you have a minute, please share this episode with your friends and family [00:09:30] so we can reach as many families as possible.

[00:09:32] Until next time, this is Jessica. You’ve got this.

Back to episodes