Healthy Eating: 10 Ways to Get Your Child to Eat Better Food
One of the best gifts you can give your child is the gift of good eating habits. Sound nutrition is not only essential to a child's growth, but lays the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. The connection between good nutrition and good health is so strong, the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to think of their feeding decisions as actual health decisions.
The good news is, when it comes to diet, even small changes can make a big difference. Here's 10 simple ways to help your child eat healthier.
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- Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Studies show that kids who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom and on academic tests. A brain-powering breakfast includes protein and fiber (like an egg and whole wheat toast), as opposed to empty carbs (i.e., breakfast pastries and sugary cereals).
- Keep offering your child new fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods, even if she initially declines it. Studies indicate that some kids must be offered a food 10 or 15 times before they'll taste it!
- Limit your child's intake of canned and processed foods, which are high in sodium, and leave the salt shaker off the table. High-sodium diets are linked to high blood pressure and other health problems. Research indicates that a preference for salty foods is learned, not innate, so this is one unhealthy habit you can nip in the bud.
- Beyond chips and cookies, how do you define junk food? In general, you can conclude a food has low nutritional value if...
- More than 35% of its calories come from fat (exception: low-fat milk)
- More than 35% of its calories come from sugar (exception: 100% fruit-based products without added sugar)
- One of its first two listed ingredients is either oil or some form of sugar (a big culprit is high fructose corn syrup)
- When trying to please a picky eater, try offering your child food choices instead of setting up yes/no situations. (For example, instead of asking, "Do you want an apple?" ask "Would you rather have an apple or a pear?") Another strategy: get your picky eater busy in the kitchen, because kids are more interested in eating dishes they've helped prepare.
- To familiarize your child with the concept of making smart food choices, involve him in simple cooking and shopping tasks. Sure it takes longer, but it empowers kids and builds essential life skills.
- Keep your eye on the big picture, and don't stress over a single bad food day. Studies show that many kids don't eat a balanced diet over the course of a single day, but do eat a healthy, balanced diet over the course of a week.
- Making homemade baby food not only gives you more control over what your baby eats, but offers significant cost savings. And when you have the right tools, making your own baby food is quick and easy.
- Kids get hungry frequently, so keep to a regular schedule. For example, if you know you have a busy afternoon, pack food to bring along. Otherwise, you may end up stopping for unplanned fast food when little passenger gets hungry and cranky.
- Studies show that kids pick up their parents' eating and exercise preferences. If you don't want your child reaching for junk food, don't keep it around. To encourage more physical activity, start moving more yourself. As your child's #1 role model, no one has more influence over you're his or her health habits than you do.