Healthy Eating Habits for Children
By teaching your children healthy eating habits, and modeling these behaviors in yourself, you can help your children maintain a healthy weight and normal growth. Also, the eating habits your children pick up while they are young will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle when they are adults. Some of the most important aspects of healthy eating are portion control and cutting down on how much fat your child eats. Simple ways to reduce fat intake in your child's diet and promote a healthy weight include serving:
- Low-fat or nonfat dairy products
- Poultry without the skin
- Lean cuts of meats
- Whole grain breads and cereals
- Healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables
Other approaches parents can take to develop healthy eating habits in their children include:
- Guide your family's choice rather than dictate foods. Make a wide variety of healthful foods available in the house. This practice will help your children learn how to make healthy food choices. Leave the unhealthy choices like chips, soda, and juice at the grocery store. Serve water or milk with meals.
- Encourage your children to eat slowly. A child can detect hunger and fullness better when they eat slowly. Before offering a second helping or serving, ask your child to wait 15 minutes to see if they are still truly hungry. This will give the brain time to register fullness. Also, that second helping should be much smaller than the first.
- Eat meals together as a family as often as possible. Try to make mealtimes pleasant with conversation and sharing, and not a time for scolding and arguing. If mealtimes are unpleasant, children may try to eat faster to leave the table as soon as possible. They then may learn to associate eating with stress.
- Involve your children in food shopping and preparing meals. These activities will give you hints about your children's food preferences, an opportunity to teach your children about nutrition, and provide your kids with a feeling of accomplishment.
- Plan for snacks. Continuous snacking may lead to overeating, but snacks that are planned for different times of the day can be part of a nutritious diet, without spoiling your child's appetite. You should make snacks as nutritious as possible
- Discourage eating meals while watching TV. Try to eat only in designated areas of your home such as the dining room or kitchen.
- Encourage your children to drink more water. Over-consumption of sweetened drinks and sodas has been linked to obesity in children.
- Try not to use food as punishment or reward your children. Withholding food as a punishment will make children fearful that they will not get enough food. When food is also used as a reward, they learn the lesson that more foods are valuable than others.
- Make sure your children's meals outside the home are balanced
- Pay attention to portion size and ingredients. Read food labels and limit foods with trans fat. Also make sure you are serving the correct portion sizes.
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