4. Start small. Don’t try to overhaul your family’s diet all at once. Instead, try making a few changes at a time. Small, manageable tweaks are more likely to last for a lifetime, Melton says.
Start with one or two of these habits each week:
- Swap your child’s sugar-sweetened drinks, such as juice and soda, for water or low-fat or nonfat milk.
- Make sure that your child eats a healthy breakfast. A morning meal with whole grains and protein, like a piece of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, will help him feel full so he won’t overeat later in the day.
- Trade refined grains, like white bread and white rice, for whole grains, such as whole wheat bread and brown or wild rice. Experiment with new ones, too, like quinoa or farro.
- Try not to eat at restaurants or fast food joints more than once a week.
- Buy more fruits, vegetables, and other healthy snacks and fewer chips, cookies, and candy. If these high-calorie foods aren’t around, your kids can’t eat them. And while you shouldn’t declare any treats “off-limits,” help your kids learn to have them in moderation.
- Keep an eye on portion sizes. Large plates and glasses encourage eating more, so you may want to downsize your tableware.
5. Eat meals together. When you sit down as a family (and not in front of the television), you’ll encourage healthier habits. One study showed that children who shared three or more family meals a week were 20% less likely to eat unhealthy foods and 12% less likely to be overweight.
At the start of each week, schedule a few family breakfasts, lunches, or dinners. If you can, get everyone involved in planning and cooking the meals.
6. Fill kids up on fruits and veggies. Produce is generally low in calories and high in nutrients. Children need 1 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1 to 2 cups of fruit each day. Sneak in servings with these strategies:
- Have your child pick out their favorite produce in the grocery store.
- Blend together a fresh fruit smoothie for breakfast or a snack.
- Serve a fruit or veggie at each meal or snack: Top cereal with berries, pair a sandwich with a side salad, and serve veggies with hummus between meals.
- Use veggies instead of meat in child-friendly dishes, such as chili, lasagna, and spaghetti.