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News | March 16, 2024

Ten tips to healthy eating for kids

It is a common idea that children inherit the traits and characteristics of their parents. “You are definitely your mother’s daughter, Jen” was the phrase I often heard growing up. I also remember looking over at my little girls as they took a bite of delicious food. They closed their eyes to savor the flavor, which is something I often do as well. What can I say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It should come as no surprise that children also develop similar eating habits as a result of following their parents and therefore may develop the same health problems?

Eating healthy is very important to me because it is what I teach. A dietitian isn’t the only person who should teach healthy eating. It needs to come from the home, after all, one hour with the dietitian will never compare to all the quality time that families spend together.

To help parents or soon to be parents, here are some tips to help your children eat healthy.
- Parents set the example. Revisit your habits. What are they and where did they come from? Do you eat in front of the television? Do you eat comfort foods when stressed or upset? Do you continue to eat even when full? Remember your children want to be like you, you are their role models.
- Start your day with breakfast. This is important to parents and children. Eating a balanced breakfast with whole grains, fruit, lean protein, and low-fat dairy, can help keep that metabolism up, provide you with much needed energy, and can improve you and your child’s attention span.
- Eat lots of different kinds of foods each day. “Variety is the spice of life.” Try not to get stuck in the routine of eating the same foods. No one food can provide all the nutrients that the body needs.
- Eat more whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables.
- Children love cereals that taste sweet (as do some parents). Some cereals have very little nutritional value, they are loaded with simple sugars and calories. Your cereal doesn’t have to taste bad to be good for you. Look for a cereal with fiber (at least 3 grams of fiber per serving). Fiber is an essential nutrient that helps to keep you full and keep you regular.
- Fruit is natures candy, aim for 2-4 servings of fruit each day. Many children, however, like to get their fruit in the form of juice. Limit juice intake (4 oz of juice has approximately 60 calories and many of us cannot stop at 4 oz). Eat a whole piece of fruit and get the fiber.
- Vegetables are very low in calories depending on what is added, aim for 3-5 servings per day. Try new vegetables and new preparation methods. Cook vegetables in broth instead of grease or meat.
- Keep moving. Playing video games is not considered an activity. Make sure your children spend more time outside working up a sweat than inside staring at the television or scrolling on a device. Parents can encourage their children and teach by example. Activity is great for the whole family and is needed to maintain a healthy weight.
- Snack smart. Many children think of snack-time as a time for something sweet or salty. This can then become a time when children get more calories than they need. Encourage your child to snack on healthier foods. Fruits and vegetables make great snacks, as does low-fat dairy products. Keep healthy foods stocked up and in sight and reach of your children and avoid buying foods with low nutritional value (what many call “junk” foods). If it is in the house, they (and you) will eat it.
- Balance your food choices so you don't eat too much of any one thing. Avoid labeling foods good or bad. I refer to foods as my “everyday foods” which are those needed daily to keep me healthy and “sometimes foods” those that are low nutrient and higher calorie. I do this because I want my kids to have a healthy relationship with foods. When they eat things that are “bad” how do you think it makes them feel? All foods have a place in our diets. The key to a healthy way of life is balance and moderation.
- Be adventurous. Try new foods and new ways of eating them. Don’t be afraid to make new foods, even if your children are picky eaters. The key is to offer different foods and tell them they at least need to try all the food on their plate. Now if you say that but are looking at your plate as if your food is moving on its own, they will most likely not want to try it. Again, this is a good time to set the example. Parents should try new foods as well. As a sidenote, avoid making your child finish their plate. This can form the habit for your child to eat even if he or she is full, which promotes overeating.
- Set healthy eating goals. Try not to make all these changes at once, they might wonder what you did with their real parents. Make changes gradually. Set one eating goal and one exercise goal a week. Explain to your children why it is important to eat healthy.
- Make healthy eating fun! Have your children take an active part in planning and making meals. Let each family member come up with a healthy meal and prepare it together. At the end of the week judge who had the best, most creative meal.

Remember eating healthy is fun but it can also help you and your family lead healthy and long lives.

March is nutrition month. Want to learn more? Book an appointment with a Registered Dietitian at Womack’s Nutrition Clinic at 910-907-DIET (3438)
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