The start of a new year is a great time to take stock and make healthy changes for yourself and your family.
As we know, children often times shy away from the raw veggie tray and the fruit salad bowl, preferring a grab-and-go bag of chips or high-sugar cereal instead. But healthy eating isn't all about broccoli and peas. It's about habits and routines.
Here are a few ways to help your child get a healthy start on eating habits:
- Remember that eating habits are established early and often are resistant to change.
This is an important area of your child's development, and you should not hesitate to speak with your pediatrician if you have questions or concerns about health, growth, or weight.
- Make dinnertime together a priority (no matter how difficult).
The family dinner is an endangered institution, but it is a hugely valuable routine that is critical in establishing lifelong patterns and creating a connection to family memories. This can be a time for interesting discussions that also build language skills. Posing a daily question, such as, "The best thing about my day so far..." can become a family ritual to which everyone looks forward.
- Involve your children in the meal preparations.
Children often love to help by washing veggies, peeling carrots, breaking lettuce, or helping to set the table.
- At mealtime, have age-appropriate table expectations.
Allow children to serve themselves when possible. Encourage small portions, but let them know that they can have second helpings. Model serving portions that aren't too hefty. Resist the temptation to push the "clean plate club" as this can result in patterns of overeating. Allow children to stop eating when they are no longer hungry.
There are many resources to help parents learn about nutrition and growing healthy eaters. A great place to start is with our parenting webinar - Food for Thought: Tips and Strategies for Growing a Healthy Eater
- presented together with the Partnership for a Healthier America.
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