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The Family Dinner: Nutrition and Nurturing

Why it's so important to eat together -- and how to find the time
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Power Up the Plate continued...

Making simple changes, one at a time, is the best way to get your family to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and less fat. Start with working more salads and vegetables into your meals. Then try a vegetarian meal once a week, focusing on foods already familiar to your family like chili or frittatas. Be creative, and remember it may take a few tries before a new food is accepted.

Preparing meals at home us much more economical gives parents control over both the quality and quantity of food. Sensible portion sizes need to be taught at home so kids don't grow up thinking supersized is normal.

Many adults who struggle with their weight never really learned how to identify hunger and fullness. Help your children understand how to eat until they're comfortably satisfied but not full by letting them serve themselves as early as age 5.

Dismiss the instinct to encourage your kids to clean their plates. This only teaches them to follow visual cues when eating instead of tuning in to their sense of satiety.

Be a Role Model

Parents play a big role in shaping children's eating habits. When parents eat a variety of foods that are low in fat and sugar and high in fiber, children learn to like these foods as well.

Your commitment to a healthy diet will encourage your children to recognize the importance of good nutrition. This can carry over into settings where kids make their own choices. If your child eats lunch at school, review the weekly lunch menu with your child and make suggestions for healthier options.

I am proud to say that the children of this dietitian have gotten the message and for the most part prefer healthful food. When my son was in college he  negotiated an increase in his food allowance to help pay for the added costs of more nutritious fare at fast-food and neighborhood restaurants.

Remember that mealtime is an excellent time to teach your children proper behavior as well as good nutrition. Actions speak louder than words, so teach your children by showing instead of telling. Be a role model for good eating habits and good table manners.

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