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I often get critizied when I will not let my children eat a piece of cake or drink sugary drinks like soda’s or Gatorade . . . here’s why.  Children are our future and we are raising them to have shorter lifespans than us.  Watch the video and read this post to find out what you can do to help your child be healthier and happier.

By teaching your children healthy eating habits, you can keep them at a healthy weight, prevent cavities or lower their changes of getting a serious disease.  The younger your children are when you teach them healthy eating habits the more likely they will be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle when they are adults.

If you are unsure about how to select and prepare a variety of foods for your family, checkout the nutrition tab at the top of this page and look at 1 of the 3 categories: Healthy Eating Tips, My Diet and Healthy recipes.  There is plenty of information to get you and your family started on the right track.

Other approaches parents can take to develop healthy eating habits in their children include:

  • 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.
  • Encourage your children to eat slowly. A child can detect hunger and fullness better when eating slowly.
  • 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.
  • Plan for snacks. Continuous snacking may lead to overeating, but snacks that are planned at specific times during the day can be part of a nutritious diet, without spoiling a child’s appetite at meal times. You should make snacks as nutritious as possible, without depriving your children of occasional chips or cookies, especially at parties or other social events.
  • 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 choose water as their beverage. Over consumption of sweetened drinks and sodas has been linked to increased rates of obesity and cavities in children.
  • Try not to use food to punish or reward your children. When foods, such as sweets, are used as a reward, children may assume that these foods are better or more valuable than other foods. For example, telling children that they will get dessert if they eat all of their vegetables sends the wrong message about vegetables.
  • Make sure your children’s meals outside the home are balanced. Find out more about their school lunch program, or pack their lunch to include a variety of foods. Also, select healthier items when dining at restaurants.

I have a picky eater, How can I get them to enjoy a wider variety of foods?

Picky eaters are going through a normal developmental stage, exerting control over their environment and expressing concern about trusting the unfamiliar. Many picky eaters also prefer a “separate compartmented plate,” where one type of food doesn’t touch another. Just as it takes numerous repetitions for advertising to convince an adult consumer to buy, it takes most children 8-10 presentations of a new food before they will openly accept it.

Rather than simply insist your child eat a new food, try the following:

  • Offer a new food only when your child is hungry and rested.
  • Present only one new food at a time.
  • Make it fun: present the food as a game, a play-filled experience. Or cut the food into unusual shapes.
  • Serve new foods with favorite foods to increase acceptance.
  • Eat the new food yourself; children love to imitate.
  • Have your child help to prepare foods. Often they will be more willing to try something when they helped to make it.
  • Limit beverages. Picky eaters often fill up on liquids instead.
  • Limit snacks to two per day.

Limit sugar and salt

One of the biggest challenges for parents is to limit the amount of sugar and salt in their children’s diets.

Limiting sugar

The American Heart Association recommends that sugar intake for children is limited to 3 teaspoons (12 grams) a day. Cutting back on candy and cookies is only part of the solution. Large amounts of added sugar can also be hidden in foods such as bread, canned soups and vegetables, frozen dinners, ketchup, and fast food.

  • Don’t ban sweets entirely. Having a no sweets rule is an invitation for cravings and overindulging when given the chance.
  • Give recipes a makeover. Many recipes taste just as good with less sugar.
  • Avoid sugary drinks. One 12-oz soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar in it, more than three times the daily recommended limit for children! Try adding a splash of fruit juice to sparkling water instead.
  • Cut down on processed foods, such as white bread and cakes, which cause blood sugar to go up and down, and can leave kids tired and sapped of energy.  AVOID fast food restaurants!!!!
  • Create your own popsicles and frozen treats. Freeze 100% fruit juice in an ice-cube tray with plastic spoons as popsicle handles. Or try freezing grapes, berries, banana pieces, or peach slices, then topping with a little chocolate sauce or whipped cream for an amazing treat.

Limiting salt

One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,300 mg of sodium. Some guidelines for the maximum salt intake for children:

If a child is… They should eat less than…
1 to 3 years old 1,500 milligrams a day
4 to 8 years old 1,900 milligrams a day
9 to 13 years old 2,200 milligrams a day
14 to 18 2,300 milligrams a day
  • Avoid processed, packaged, restaurant, and fast food. Processed foods like canned soups or frozen dinners contain hidden sodium that quickly surpasses the recommended limit. Many fast food meals are also loaded with sodium.
  • Opt for fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables.
  • Cut back on salty snacks such as potato chips, nuts, and pretzels.
  • Choose low-salt or reduced-sodium products.

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