Coaching Your Child to Better Health
If your child is struggling with his or her weight or perhaps needs to improve their eating habits, it can be difficult to know how to help. Too much intervention can cause a power struggle and be met with push back; too little may lead to long term health issues. Here are 10 tips to help you help your child eat healthier.
- Keep the foods you want your kids to eat in the house. Keeps foods you don’t want them to eat out of the house. Parents are the gatekeepers of the food. A variety of whole grain snack crackers, baked chips, lite popcorn, fruits, cut up veggies, cheese, yogurt and nuts should be accessible. Leave cookies, candy, ice cream, soda, and other foods high in sugar and fat at the store.
- Display an example of a balanced plate from MyPlate.gov. Encourage kids to choose snacks from more than one food group.
- Feed all your kids the same. There should not be different rules for your skinny kid and your less skinny kid. All members of the family will benefit from a balanced diet of healthy grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Sweets and treats are sometimes foods for all.
- Ask questions rather than direct. Rather than “You got too many chips,” you may say “Did you check the portion size for those chips?” Instead of “No, you can’t have cookies,” try “Can you compare the snacks and find ones with less sugar and fat?” When they want seconds, you may ask “Are you still really hungry?” Or, “Check your MyPlate. Are there servings of food groups you are missing today?”
- Help them find the answers. Help them to use trusted resources like MyPlate.gov or MyFitnessPal to learn about foods and make comparisons. Check online menus for healthy fast food options.
- Teach them to use the Nutrition Facts. From guidance on appropriate portion sizes to comparing foods for fat, sugar, protein, and fiber content, kids can use this tool to make food choices. Teach kids to aim for less than 30% calories from fat, less sugar, more fiber, and more protein.
- Let kids help shop for healthy foods they will eat. Ask them to pick a fruit they want that week, a vegetable to try, or request a meal for dinner. Have them use the Nutrition Facts to choose healthy after school snacks.
- Praise your child’s healthy choices. Give positive feedback for drinking water, being active, choosing a fruit to have with snack, getting an appropriate portion for snack. Praise anything you can think of to keep a positive focus on healthy changes.
- Take a step back. No one ever made changes because someone nagged them to do it. Do what you can to empower, encourage, and enable them to make healthier choices, and wait for them to take the next steps when they are ready.
- Be a good example. Eat well and be active as a family. If you have habits you would like to change, work on them one at a time. Reach out for help making healthy goals and stick with them as a family.
*** Jennifer Yoon sees patients at the Pediatric Alliance — St. Clair office. For an appointment, please call (412) 221-2121. Read more from Jennifer on The PediaBlog here.