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How to Raise Healthy Children: It's a Family Affair

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5. Make Nutrition Fun
There are a lot of reasons to get your kids involved in planning and making healthy meals with you. Kids are more likely to eat something they help prepare, and they might learn about where food comes from along the way. Here are some things you can do together:

  • Plant a garden and eat what you harvest.
  • Go berry or apple picking and make a treat with what you bring home.
  • Use cookie cutters to make food in interesting shapes.
  • Use fruits and vegetables to make meals colorful and interesting.
  • Arrange broccoli into a forest.

6. Slowly Swap Out Unhealthy Foods
You don’t have to turn your kitchen, or your children’s lives upside down. Start with a few low-key substitutions and build from there. 

  • Cook with olive oil instead of butter.
  • Replace white rice with brown rice.
  • Phase out high-sugar cereals. Bring home less-sugary options.
  • Serve water, low-fat milk, or small amounts of juice instead of soda.
  • Add pureed vegetables instead of cheese to pasta sauce.

7. Change the Food Environment
The sight or smell of tempting food can make you believe you’re hungry, even when you just ate. You don’t have to swear off cookies and ice cream forever, but they shouldn’t be a daily staple either. A few environmental changes can help you put the lid on unhealthy urges.

  • Keep high-sugar, high-fat snacks someplace hard to see and hard to reach.
  • Replace the cookie jar with an inviting bowl of fresh fruit.
  • Serve meals on smaller plates to keep portions in check.
  • Keep serving dishes off the dinner table. If anyone wants seconds, they can get up for it.

8. Keep Nutrition Affordable
A healthy meal doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are a few low-cost items that don’t take hours to prepare: 

  • Lentils and beans
  • Canned foods, as long as you go for low-sodium options
    • Canned salmon has many of the same benefits as fresh salmon at a much lower cost.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables – you can stock up and not worry about them going bad.
  • Fruits or veggies that are ‘in season’ or local; these tend to be less expensive.

9. Be a Role Model of Healthy Eating and Physical Activity
For many families, being inactive and living on a diet of sugar and fat are the norm. Your family may have some healthy habits, or very few. Whatever your current status, it’s never too late to make a family commitment to healthy change. As a parent, you can:

  • Make healthy habits a priority.
  • Keep the conversation positive.
  • Get your kids involved.

Your children might not react well at first but rest assured your behavior matters. Work nutritious food and physical activity into your family’s life and continue to talk about the positive benefits. Eventually, most children follow their parents’ lead.

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Reviewed on September 19, 2011
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