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A Healthy Diet for your Children

Linda Byard

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 oven.

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 picked themselves.

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 about it.

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 dinner.

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 family.

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.

Linda Byard

More articles from Linda:

20 Dieting Tips Be slim and live longer!
Diet for Kids Healthy kids.
Fitness Be serious about fitness
Survive Long Flights Living in the stratosphere
35 Travel Tips for Americans Enjoy your Visit to Europe. Linda's advice could prove invaluable.


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