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Give Kids Lots of Healthy Choices

Hand a kid a carrot for an afternoon snack and you may get a ho-hum reaction. Let them choose between a carrot, tangerine, or a handful of grapes, and you'll probably get a much livelier response. We all like choice, so whether at home or away, you can win kids over to healthier eating and give your children's diet a boost by letting them pick what to eat. Just make sure their options are healthy ones.

  • At the restaurant. Next time you're at your favorite restaurant, give the kids a choice between two or three healthy options. Would they like a grilled chicken sandwich or a plain burger? A side salad, baked potato, or corn-on-the-cob? Fruit sorbet or frozen yogurt? Let them choose.
  • At home. Make healthier eating fun by starting with a kid-friendly base food: Try making a cheese pizza, a rice-and-bean burrito, or whole wheat pasta, then let the kids choose toppings or fillings such as red pepper strips, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, low-fat cheeses or sour cream.

Get the Kids Involved

Your kids will be more interested in healthy meals if they help plan and prepare them. So get your kids brainstorming about tasty, fast, healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, then let them help you:

  • Make grocery lists
  • Go grocery shopping with you
  • Prepare the food (little ones can mix foods, wash produce, or open packages)
  • Create simple desserts (fruit parfait, frozen fruit juice, or yogurt Popsicles)

Don't forget to plan treats at home and when you're eating out. To keep kids from feeling deprived, you don't want to ban food favorites like chips, ice cream, and candies -- just make sure they're special now-and-then treats.

Be a Role Model

Your kids notice how you eat, so be a role model to them for healthy eating behaviors. A few simple ways to be a healthy eating habits role model include:

  • If you want the kids to eat their fruits and veggies, be sure they see you eat yours, too.
  • Go easy on between-meal snacks, and when you do snack, make healthy choices like produce, nuts, or whole grains.
  • Avoid portion distortion; if you say no to super-sizing and usually skip seconds, your kids will notice.
  • Share a healthy dessert at home and when you're eating out.
  • Be positive about your body and attitudes toward food.

Want to make being a role model easier on you and help your kids eat healthy at the same time? Only stock the kitchen and pantry with healthy treats like dried fruits and nuts, low-fat yogurt and cheeses, and plenty of produce. Always have a bowl of fruit on the countertop, where it's easy to grab on-the-go. Also keep goodies like whole-grain crackers on hand.