You are one of the most influential people in your child's life. You can do many things to help your children develop healthy eating habits. You can do this by offering a variety of foods from each food group, giving them the opportunity to try new things and benefit from much needed nutrients.
Choosemyplate.gov (link at bottom) offers 10 suggestions for being a good healthy role model for your children.
1. Show by example - Eat whole grains, vegetables and fruit with meals or snacks. Let your children see that you like them and are willing to try new things and that will increase their desire to do the same.
2. Go food shopping together - Grocery shopping can teach your children about food and nutrition. Discuss where vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy are located. Let them help pick out something healthy to try. If they are involved in the process, they will be more likely to try it.
3. Get creative in the kitchen- Cut food into fun shapes with cookie cutters. Name the food your child helps you make, this gives them pride in the food they make and an increased desire to try it.
4. Offer the same foods for everyone- Stop being a "short-order cook" by making different dishes for everyone. It's easier to eat as a family when everyone eats the same meals.
5. Reward with attention, not food - Try not to offer sweets as rewards. Reward with activities or family time. When meals are not eaten, kids do not need “extras” — such as candy or cookies — as replacement foods.
6. Focus on each other at the table- Talk about fun and happy things at mealtime. Try to make eating meals stress-free and enjoyable for everyone there. Try playing "20 questions" or other games that get the family thinking and sharing. This will help break down barriers and strengthen relationships.
7. Listen to your child - When you child says they are hungry offer a small, healthy snack. Try involving them in menu planning by asking " which would you like for dinner, broccoli or cauliflower?" rather than " do you want broccoli for dinner?"
8. Limit screen time - Shorten screen time like TV and computer games to less than 2 hours. Get up and move during commercials to encourage physical activity,
9. Encourage physical activity - Set an example by being physically active! Try new things and encourage your children to try them with you. You can also be an example by using safety gear, like bike helmets.
10. Be a good food role model - Try new foods yourself. Describe its taste, texture and smell. Offer one new food at a time, try offering the new food at the beginning of the meal when your child is very hungry. Avoid lecturing of forcing your child to eat.
You don't have to be perfect, to be a perfect parent. Any effort we make to help our children develop healthy habits now, will not go unnoticed. It might take time for them to adjust to the new changes, but it will be worth it!!! It is easier to change behaviors as a child, then as an adult.
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