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Helping Children Make Healthy Food Choices

Helping Children Make Healthy Food Choices

Helping-Children-Make-Healthy-Food-ChoicesTrying to get children to try healthy foods is like attempting to fly a kite on a windless day. Children’s palates are not as developed as those of an adult. Also, if something does not look fun or appetizing to them, they may not want to eat it. Certain fast food establishments add prizes or toys to get kids excited about food that is not very nutritious. As we go through this list, think about how you were taught to view food when you were a child. Were you a member of the Clean Plate Club? How can you help your children make the right food choices?

Serve Yourself

Schedule regular mealtimes. From the foods you offer, operative words “you offer” allow your child to choose what to eat and how much. Kids learn several important factors and not just about food when they serve themselves at mealtime:

  • which foods to eat and how much
  • develop awareness of hunger and fullness
  • young children acquire better fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination
  • learn they are responsible for their choices

Introduce a variety of foods

Practice patience. Children probably won’t like new food immediately. Offer fruits and vegetables often and served in different ways. Give kids a taste to start and hopefully over time they will learn to like it. Encourage them to eat by:

  • offering healthy food multiple times served in a variety of ways
  • starting with small amounts
  • serving fruits and vegetables with foods they already like
  • leaving the choice up to the child on which foods to try

Let your child help

Children love to help cook so it’s highly likely they will be more apt to try food they helped you make. Give them small jobs to help and be sure to point out what a great job they’re doing. These mealtime memories you create with your child/ren will last a lifetime.

Keep mealtime focused on family

  • focus on the meal and each person at the table
  • turn off the television and all cell phones
  • talk about positive topics
  • encourage your child to try any new foods served during the meal

Let kids stop eating when they’re full

While many of us grew up striving to be a member of the “clean plate club” or heard the speech about “starving children in (insert country name here)”, those approaches don’t teach children to know when they’re full. Allow your child to stop eating when he or she feels full. This practice makes them less likely to overeat as a habit.

Don’t use sweets as a reason to overeat

Occasional sweets are fine, but be careful not to turn dessert into the main reason for eating dinner. When dessert is the prize after the meal, many kids will place more value on the dessert than the main dishes.

You are the role model

Your child looks up to you so try to set the best example possible by eating healthy. Choose nutritious meals and snacks, always eat at the table, and don’t skip meals. Work some family exercise into each day. It can be something as simple as taking a walk after dinner instead of immediately plopping down on the couch. You are the best example to your children. You can say whatever you want to them, but until you show them with your actions, they won’t take you seriously.