By teaching your children healthy eating habits, and modeling these behaviors in yourself, you can help your children maintain a healthy weight and normal growth. Also, the eating habits your children pick up when they are young will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle when they are adults.
Some of the most important aspects of healthy eating are portion control and cutting down on how much fat your child eats. Simple ways to reduce fat intake in your child’s diet and promote a healthy weight include serving:
- low-fat or nonfat dairy products
- reduce the amount of sugar sweetened drinks and salt in your child’s diet.
- whole grain breads and cereals
Children should never be placed on a restrictive diet to lose weight unless a doctor supervises one for medical reasons.
Guide your family’s choices rather than dictate foods. Make a wide variety of healthful foods available in the house. This practice will help your children learn how to make healthy food choices. Leave the unhealthy choices like soda and juice at the grocery store. Serve water with meals.
Encourage your children to eat slowly. A child can detect hunger and fullness better when they eat slowly. Before offering a second helping or serving, ask your child to wait a few minutes to see if they are truly still hungry. This will give the brain time to register fullness.
Eat meals together as a family as often as possible. Try to make mealtimes pleasant with conversation and sharing, not a time for scolding or arguing. If mealtimes are unpleasant, children may try to eat faster to leave the table as soon as possible. They then may learn to associate eating with stress.
- Involve your children in food shopping and preparing meals. These activities will give you hints about your children’s food preferences, an opportunity to teach your children about nutrition, and provide your kids with a feeling of accomplishment. In addition, children may be more willing to eat or try foods that they help prepare.
Discourage eating meals or snacks while watching TV. Try to eat only in designated areas of your home, such as the dining room or kitchen. Eating in front of the TV may make it difficult to pay attention to feelings of fullness, and may lead to overeating.
- Encourage your children to drink more water. Over consumption of sweetened drinks and sodas has been linked to increased rates of obesity in children.