With every meal and every munch, children are building their eating habits—habits that may last a lifetime. From the USDA food pyramid to the latest fad, healthy eating can be confusing. But by following some basic guidelines, you can create an environment that encourages your children to eat right and maintain a healthy weight. Here are 10 family-friendly tips to encourage your kids to enjoy eating healthfully.
1. Model your message
It’s important for children to see their parents eating healthy meals, as this will plant the seeds for healthy eating now, and have a positive influence for years to come.
2. Incorporate a variety of whole foods
Vary the types and colors of your fruits and vegetables, choose whole grains, include low-fat dairy products and lean proteins. Limit the amount of processed and fried foods, red meat, sodium and foods and drinks with added sugars (juice and soda).
3. Rewrite the kids’ menu
Encourage kids to try things other than burgers and hot dogs; they might surprise you with their willingness to experiment.
You control the supply lines by deciding which foods to buy and when to serve them. Kids won’t go hungry. They’ll eat what’s available at home. From the food selections you offer, let kids choose what to eat and how much of it they want.
4. Involve kids in grocery shopping and meal prep
Pick out healthful foods together at the grocery store, and have them help with meal preparation. Get them involved in the process of cooking a meal by giving them a job they can do on their own based on their age. They will be more inclined to eat the food they helped prepare.
5. Eat together
Children who eat regularly with their families tend to eat healthier (more fruits and vegetables; less fried foods, soda and saturated fat) than those who don’t.
6. Quit the “clean-plate club”
Let kids stop eating when they feel they’ve had enough, which teaches them to listen to their own bodies when they feel full.
7. Put sweets in their place
Occasional sweets are fine, but don’t let dessert become the prize for eating dinner.
8. Make breakfast a habit
Kids who eat breakfast seem to have an easier time learning than those who don’t, and are more likely to behave better in school. Try to include foods from at least three food groups.
9. Limit screen time
When you do, you’ll avoid mindless snacking and encourage activity.
10. Stick to water or milk
Soda, juice, sports drinks and other sweetened beverages get in the way of good nutrition. Studies show a link between high-fructose corn syrup and the development of type 2 diabetes.