This week we’ve covered the AAP’s new strategies for stopping the epidemic of obesity by preventing it before it begins. Yesterday, we went over some tips that hopefully will help parents negotiate the treacherous terrain of feeding a growing family. Amanda Chan adds to the conversation with “Ten Ways to Promote Kids’ Healthy Eating Habits”:
If bad eating habits reign, they can be hard to change especially when they’ve become comfortable routines. But by keeping unhealthy foods out of your home, and bringing healthy foods in, it’s possible to promote better eating habits, even with the pickiest kids.
Whether you’re trying to cajole your toddler to give peas a chance, or attempting to persuade your tween into drinking something other than soda, these healthy eating tips might be worth a try.
This tip is actually the most important:
Set a Good Example
It may seem that your kids especially teenagers often do the exact opposite of your healthy-eating advice, but in fact, your opinion and actions make a big impact on how they view nutrition, the USDA advises.
Preschoolers especially love to copy what their parents do, and are likely to mimic your meal preferences and willingness to try new foods. Take advantage of this monkey-see, monkey-do behavior and make healthy eating choices in front of them.
Eat snacks and meals with your child whenever possible, so they see how much you enjoy eating fruits and vegetables, and make mealtime fun by trying new foods together, the USDA says.
If you have older kids, discourage them from making a “yuck” face when eating vegetables or talking negatively about a certain dish around a younger child at the dinner table.
This one is also very important:
Help Them Recognize When They’ve Eaten Enough
Remind your children to stop eating once they begin to feel full, the USDA says. Do not urge them to finish all the food on their plate, and do not praise them for completely clearing their plate.
Instead, tell them that it’s best to only eat as much as they want at that time, and that the leftovers can be finished later when they become hungry again.
Allow your child to stop eating when they feel that they are full, even if you sometimes feel that they have not eaten enough. Making them eat when they are no longer hunger can lead to unhealthy overeating habits.
To help your young child learn to listen to their body’s fullness cues at mealtime, the USDA recommends ask them questions such as “Is your tummy telling you that you’re full?” or “Is your stomach still making that hungry growling noise?”
Nutritious New Foods: Try, Try Again
Don’t be discouraged if your toddler stubbornly turns away from mashed broccoli or strained peas, the USDA says. It takes time for children to learn to like a new food’s taste and texture. Offer a new food many times, as it can take up to a dozen tries for a child to decide they like a certain food.
To help a picky eater or rebellious teen feel more in control of their food choices and therefore be more likely to eat the healthy meals you dish out pose food questions as an option. For example, ask “Which would you prefer at dinner: cucumbers or tomatoes?” instead of “Do you want tomatoes as a dinner side dish?”
Read “10 Ways to Promote Kids’ Healthy Eating Habits” here.