A Healthy Diet for your Children
You have the most control
over your children’s food when they are very young. This is also when
they establish eating habits and preferences which will last a
lifetime. If all they eat is healthy food, that is what they will
prefer when they get older. That will be their “comfort food.”
1. Children eat what
is available. Check your refrigerator. Check your cabinets. Think about
what is there and stop buying "for the kids."
2. Whenever the
family sits together, provide the same healthy set of choices for
everyone. Be a role model for your children. Be aware of portion sizes.
3. Introduce a new
food or an old food made a new way but expect that it could take
several times before a child might actually eat it. Don't make a big
deal about this, and don't insist that the child eat it. Mealtime
should be a pleasant social experience.
4. Do not use food as
a reward - ever.
5. Don't overcook
vegetables; this is probably the main reason why children (and adults)
don't eat enough of them. Raw is sometimes best.
6. Be open to new
ideas. For example, ditch the French fries and try oven baked sweet
potato fries. These are so easy: Clean a couple of sweet potatoes, cut
them into strips (you can leave the skins on), baste with a small
amount of olive oil, and bake for around twenty minutes in a 400 degree
7. Do not allow
children to think that every outing, every activity, every thing they
do, must be accompanied by a high calorie snack.
8. Educate yourself
so that when your children do ask for particular foods, you can explain
your answer. Many parents are not allowing their children to eat
anything with "trans fats" in them. You shouldn't be eating them
either. But do you know why? Be ready with other suggestions when your
child asks you to buy something which you don't think is a good idea.
9. Favor the
supermarket or other store with the widest variety and best quality of
produce. Bring the kids shopping sometimes, teach them to read labels,
and involve them in decision making.
10. Plant a vegetable
garden. Let your children choose which plants will be theirs to take
care of. Most children will happily eat the things they have grown and
11. Listen to what your
children are saying. Sometimes the food itself isn't the problem; it is
the container or the social context or something else. For example,
maybe the kids don't really care about having soft drinks. What they
care about is having a container that fits easily into a lunch box -
and doesn't make them feel too weird in front of their peers.
12. Even though you may
be very concerned about your child's weight, be careful about how you
express your worry. Your child already knows there is a problem if
there is one, and doesn't need anyone to make him or her feel worse
13. Even if you can't
stand the idea, get your family to participate in physical activity on
a regular basis - even if it is just walking around the block after
14. Don't let your kids
graze the television incessantly. You decide how much time is ok and
let them decide which shows they really want to watch within that time
frame. Above all, don't let the television become associated with
eating. Watch how much time your children are spending in front of
computer screens also.
15. Help your kids find
non-sedentary activities they will enjoy with their friends, or with
you, or are led by other enthusiastic adults. This might mean driving
them to sports activities, to dance lessons, or on wilderness outings.
Your kids might need several tries before finding the activities they
like. But don't stop; keep trying until each discovers a special one.
16. What is good for
you is good for the kids: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean
meat/fish, low fat dairy products. You probably already know the drill.
If your family's diet needs a lot of change, enlist the help of the
kids. Tell them what you are trying to move towards, and learn how to
cook together. Do not talk about weight loss as a goal. Instead talk
about a healthy diet which has a lot of benefits for everyone in the
17. Children will
always want their treats especially when they are with others and on
special occasions. Restricting special occasion treats is just asking
for a whole lot of trouble. Children get fat because they consistently
consume more calories than they burn. That means you should worry the
most about daily patterns, not holidays.
18. Once your kids
reach a certain age, you really can't control what they eat outside the
house. But you can set the example in a number of ways. Make sure that
your kids know what you think about nutrition and various food issues.
They may "give you the business" but their brains will absorb new ideas
anyway. There is much to be gained by promoting good family health. Do
work with other parents to make healthy food choices available in
school lunches. Do what you can to get your school system to provide a
quality physical education program.
19. Children grow up as
well as out. Many children do not need to lose weight. They just need
to stop gaining weight. Spend a little time learning about growth
curves, and your own family's health history.
20. Swallow hard and
don't come down on family members for whatever they did yesterday. You
can't undo that second piece of cake or that third scoop of ice cream.
Think about the next meal and the one after that.
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