Healthy Eating for Children - Changing Your Family's Eating Habits
means eating a variety of foods from all food groups. It means choosing fewer
foods that have lots of fats and sugar. But it does not mean that your child
cannot eat desserts or other treats now and then.
With a little
planning, you can create a structure that gives your child (and you) the
freedom to make healthy eating choices. Think of this as planning not just for
the kids but for everyone in your family.
- Set up a regular snack and meal schedule. Kids
need to eat at least every 3 to 4 hours. Most children do well with three meals
and two or three snacks a day.
- Eat meals together as a family as
often as possible.
- Start with small, easy-to-achieve changes, such
as offering more fruits and vegetables at meals and snacks.
at your portion sizes. Remember that younger children may eat smaller amounts
than adults. Although paying attention to portion sizes is important
(especially of less nutritious foods), it is up to your child to decide how
much food he or she needs to eat at a meal to feel full.
- Slowly cut down on soda pop and other high-sugar drinks. Serve water to
quench thirst. You can encourage your child to drink more water and fewer
sugar-sweetened drinks by keeping cold water on hand in the
- At meals, serve milk. (Children under 12 months of age should not drink cow's milk.) Most children need whole milk between 1 and 2 years of age. But your doctor may recommend 2% milk if your child is overweight or if there is a family history of obesity, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Over the age of 2, serve fat-free or low-fat milk.
- Consider meeting with a
registered dietitian for help with meal and snack
planning (nutritional counseling).
- When trying new foods at
a meal, be sure to also include a food that your child likes. Don't be
discouraged if it takes several tries before your child actually eats a new
food. It may take as many as 15 times or more before your child will
try a new food.
- Even though your child may not eat the food, it is important to
keep serving it so that your child can see other family members enjoying it.
Also, your child should not think that meals are going to be planned only
around his or her food preferences. Remember, you are in charge of deciding
which foods are served at meal and snacks.
If you are feeling out of control over your own eating
habits or weight, your child may be learning some poor eating habits from you.
See a registered dietitian, your doctor, or a mental health professional
experienced with eating problems, if needed. For more information, see the
Healthy Eating and
Encourage healthy choices
Help your child learn to
make healthy food and lifestyle choices by following these steps:
- Be a good role model. Practice the eating and
exercise habits you'd like your children to have. Your example is your child's
most powerful learning tool.
- Increase active time. Make physical
activity a part of your family's daily life. Set limits on your child's daily
TV and computer time to no more than 2 hours a day. Experts recommend no TV for children under 2 years.
- Eat breakfast.
Having breakfast with your child can help start a lifelong healthy
- Involve your child in meal planning and grocery shopping.
When your child is old enough, teach him or her about food preparation, cooking
and food safety and, later, how to use
food label information . While giving your child a role in decision making, remember
that you have the final say in food planning.
- Involve your child in cooking. Children enjoy helping out, and
they learn easily with hands-on experience. They can also use other skills,
such as math, when counting or measuring ingredients.