Raising a Healthy Eater
Being overweight isn’t just unhealthy. Research shows a link between early childhood obesity and poor school performance. Here are some ideas for helping your whole family develop habits for maintaining healthy attitudes about food — and a healthy weight for life:
Don’t focus on treats. When cakes, cookies or candy become a reward, it increases their “value” to kids.
At the same time, when we ban all sweets, they become “forbidden fruit” for kids, which may make them more desirable. Rather than focusing on whether desserts or other treats are good or bad, maintaining a neutral attitude and enjoying them occasionally helps create a healthy attitude and diet.
Don’t make kids clean their plates. Our bodies and brains tell us when we are full. Most children get enough to eat, even the pickiest eaters, but it can take time for the brain to recognize that the body is full. Encouraging children to eat slowly, and only until they are full — not past that point — helps them develop trust in themselves and a healthy attitude about eating.
Avoid soda, juice and other high- calorie, sugary drinks. Kids who consume a full-strength glass of juice take in the same amount of calories as those who drink soda — more than 100 extra calories a day! In the first five years and beyond, encourage children to drink water. If you do offer juice, dilute it with an equal part of water.
Offer choices and be creative. Salad for breakfast? Breakfast for dinner? Why not, once in a while? To encourage healthy eating, have fun and be flexible by offering a variety of foods to your child. While having set, predictable mealtimes helps children avoid overeating, changing up when and how you eat certain foods can encourage your child to try new things.
Check out MyPlate. It includes the new, easy-to-use nutritional guidelines from the USDA, which takes the guesswork out of healthy eating for kids. Visit ChooseMyPlate to learn more.