10 Ways to Raise Food-Smart Kids
Want your children to eat healthy foods? Create a nutritional home. Begin here.
Creating a nutritional home is one of the most important steps
you can take to ensure the health of your child. To start, make smart food
choices, and help your child develop a positive relationship with healthy food.
Your children will learn their food smarts from your example.
Here are the top 10 tips for getting children to eat healthy
food, offered by Melinda Sothern, PhD, co-author of Trim Kids and director of
obesity prevention laboratory at Louisiana State University:
- Do not restrict food. Restricting food increases the risk your child may
develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia later in life. It
can also have a negative effect on growth and development.
- Keep healthy food at hand. Children will eat what's readily available. Keep
fruit in a bowl on the counter, not buried in the crisper section of your
fridge. And have an apple for your own snack. "Your actions scream louder
than anything you will ever tell them," says Sothern. Remember, your child
can only choose foods that you stock in the house.
- Don't label foods as "good" or "bad." Instead, tie foods to
the things your child cares about, such as sports or appearance. Let your child
know that lean protein such as turkey and calcium in dairy products give
strength to their sports performance. The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables
add luster to skin and hair.
- Praise healthy choices. Give your children a proud smile and tell them how
smart they are when they choose healthy foods.
- Don't nag about unhealthy choices. When children choose unhealthy food,
ignore it. Or if your child always wants fatty, fried food, redirect the
choice. You might try roasting potato sticks in the oven (tossed in just a bit
of oil) instead of buying french fries. Or, if your child wants candy, you
might make fresh strawberries dipped in a little chocolate sauce. Too busy?
Then keep naturally sweet dried fruit at home for quick snacks.
- Never use food as a reward. This could create weight problems in later
life. Instead, reward your children with something physical and fun -- perhaps
a trip to the park or a quick game of catch.
- Sit down to family dinners at night. If this isn't a tradition in your
home, it should be. Research shows that children who eat dinners at the table
with their parents have better nutrition and are less
likely to get in serious trouble as teenagers. Start with one night a week, and
then work up to three or four, to gradually build the habit.
- Prepare plates in the kitchen. There you can put healthy portions of each
item on everyone's dinner plate. Your children will learn to recognize correct
portion sizes. And you may find your slacks fit better as well!
- Give the kids some control. Ask your children to take three bites of all
the foods on their plate and give it a grade, such as A, B, C, D, or F. When
healthy foods - especially certain vegetables -- get high marks, serve them
more often. Offer the items your children don't like less frequently. This lets
your children participate in decision making. After all, dining is a family
- Consult your pediatrician. Always talk with your child's doctor before
putting your child on a diet, trying to help your child gain weight, or making
any significant changes in the type of foods your child eats. Never diagnose
your child as too heavy, or too thin, by yourself.