Healthy Eating for Children - Topic Overview
How can you help your child eat well and be healthy? continued...
If this idea is new to you, it may take a little time for both you and your child to adjust. In time, your child will learn that he or she will be allowed to eat as little or as much as he or she wants at each meal and snack. This will encourage your child to continue to trust his or her internal hunger gauge.
Here are some ways you can help support your child's healthy eating habits:
- Eat together as a family as often as possible. Keep family meals pleasant and positive. Avoid making comments about the amount or type of food your child eats. Pressure to eat actually reduces children's acceptance of new or different foods.
- Make healthy food choices for your family's meals. Children notice the choices you make and follow your example.
- Make meal times fairly predictable. Eat at around the same times every day and always at the table, even for snacks.
- Have meals often enough (for example, about every 3 hours for toddlers) that your child doesn't get too hungry.
- Do nothing else during the meal other than talking and enjoying each other-no TV or other distractions.
Here are some other ways you can help your child stay healthy:
- Set limits on your child's daily television and computer time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting TV and other screen time to 2 hours or less a day.1 Sit down with your child and plan out how he or she will use this time allowance. It's best for children younger than 2 to not watch TV, watch movies, or play games on a screen.
- Make physical activity a part of your family's daily life. For example, walk your child to and from school and take a walk after dinner. Teach your young child how to skip, hop, dance, play catch, ride a bike, and more. Encourage your older child to find his or her favorite ways to be active.
- Take your child to all recommended well-child checkups. You can use this time to discuss with a doctor your child's growth rate, activity level, and eating habits.