Too often, children fall into unhealthy routines when it comes to eating. These habits can jeopardize their long-term overall health, potentially leading to serious complications later in life. In fact, nearly 1 in 3 children in America is overweight or obese. That’s why the early years are important for building a child’s nutrition habits. By starting young and encouraging a fun, healthy diet, it’s possible to lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy, independent eating.
Here are a few simple tips for instilling healthy eating habits in your kids.
- Eat in moderation
Eating healthy doesn’t mean your kids can never have a little “junk” food as a treat. Teach your child the importance of moderation, healthy portion sizes and self-control when it comes to making daily food choices.
- Quality over quantity
Rather than making your child clean his plate, encourage him to eat slowly. This will help your child detect hunger and fullness better, preventing overeating and teaching portion control.
- Shop smart
If you don’t buy it, they can’t eat it. When shopping for foods choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grains, low-fat dairy products and lean meats. Stock up on healthy snacks for after school, and avoid buying too many junk foods or sugary drinks and sodas that are stumbling blocks to healthy eating.
- Pack smart for school
Be aware of your child’s school lunch options by reviewing the menu. Help your child understand how he can make good meal choices at school, and if you need to, pack your child a nutritious lunch to ensure he’s getting a variety of healthy foods that he likes to eat.
- Load up on fruits and vegetables
When cooking, introduce a variety of fruits and vegetables into your meals as a great way to get your kids to try—and even acquire a taste for—healthier foods. It may take several tries, so be persistent and creative in your meal planning.
- Set a good example
One of the best ways a parent can support healthy eating habits for their child is to model similar habits. Most kids are more willing to try foods if they see their parents enjoying them.
- Make meals family-time
Eat together as a family when possible, and make mealtime fun by trying new foods together.
Bottom line: Instilling healthy eating habits in children is an ongoing process that takes time and patience, but the benefits of a healthier lifestyle can last throughout their entire life. Talk to your child’s pediatrician for guidance if you have questions about your child’s eating habits or dietary needs.