Your Child's Nutrition: The Power of Parents
You have more influence on what your kids eat than you think. Here's how to make the most of it.
How to Model Good Nutrition for Your Child continued...
That's how the habit of "constant
grazing" is born, says Kleinman. "That's why you see kids sipping a
soda while they're walking down the street. They just don't think about
Value family mealtimes. Family mealtimes -- without the TV -- help
teach children valuable lessons, says Kleinman. "Families who eat together
tend to eat healthier. They learn portion control, since there's only so much
food put out for everybody. It also reinforces time limits on
Track TV time. Difficult as it may be, limiting TV time is
absolutely a must, Kleinman says. "You should be outside with your kids,
walking or running, modeling what a healthy lifestyle is all about -- or your
kids will not take it seriously."
Studies show that when parents make the effort be model good nutrition for
their children, it really does work. One study focused on 114 overweight
families, with kids aged 6-12 years old. Like their parents, the kids were
overweight. As parents took measures to get into shape, so did their overweight
kids. In fact, both parents and kids had similar positive results in weight
loss over the five-year study period.
What were parents doing right? They were keeping close track of foods they
ate, limiting high-calorie foods, following a food reference guide, having
nightly family meetings, and praising each other -- generally being healthy
role models for their kids.
Tips for Boosting Your Child's Nutrition
To turn things around at your house and give your child's nutrition a
healthy boost, we've got these tips:
Try one or two new healthy foods or recipes every week. Some will
catch on, others won't. You might need to expose your kids to certain foods as
many as 10 or 15 times before they develop a taste for them. Serve new fruits
and veggies in bite-sized pieces, so they're easier to eat -- with dipping
sauces to make them yummier.
Let young children serve themselves. One study showed that when food
was served family-style -- passing bowls around the table -- children took the
right amount of food for their ages. Three-year-olds took about a 1/2 cup
portion of mac 'n' cheese; 4- and 5-year-olds took 3/4 cup. However, when
researchers put a double-sized portion on the children's plates, the kids took
bigger bites -- and ate more.
Don't let kids eat in front of TV. Preschoolers who watch two or more
hours of TV daily are nearly three times more likely to be overweight than
children who watch less, research shows. Why? Kids who eat while watching TV
often eat more, possibly because they are distracted from the normal feeling of
Make breakfast a priority. Eating breakfast fuels body and brain and
is a big part of good nutrition for children. Kids who eat breakfast daily get
more nutrients overall. They are also less likely to be overweight, and fare
better at school. If growing kids don't get that first meal of the day, they
miss out on protein, calcium, fiber, a little fat to help them feel full, plus
important vitamins. Try:
- Whole-grain breakfast cereals, like Cheerios and Wheat Chex
- Oatmeal with applesauce, berries, and chopped nuts
- Whole-grain toast topped with melted reduced-fat cheese
- Fruit-and-yogurt parfait: Layer low-fat yogurt with fruit, nuts,
- Whole-grain frozen waffles topped with sliced strawberries and low-fat
- Scrambled eggs or omelet with veggies
- Leftover cheese-and-veggie pizza