Westmoreland county public schools
Developing healthy eating habits
Children develop a natural preference for the foods they enjoy the most, so the challenge is to make healthy choices appealing. No matter how good your intentions, trying to convince your eight-year-old that an apple is as sweet a treat as a cookie is not a recipe for success! However, you can ensure that your children’s diet is as nutritious and wholesome as possible, even while allowing for some of their favorite treats.
The childhood impulse to imitate is strong, so it’s important you act as a role model for your kids. It’s no good asking your child to eat fruit and vegetables while you gorge on potato chips and soda.
Top tips to promote healthy childhood eating
Have regular family meals. Knowing dinner is served at approximately the same time every night and that the entire family will be sitting down together is comforting and enhances appetite. Breakfast is another great time for a family meal, especially since kids who eat breakfast tend to do better in school.
Cook more meals at home. Eating home cooked meals is healthier for the whole family and sets a great example for kids about the importance of food. Restaurant meals tend to have more fat, sugar, and salt. Save dining out for special occasions.
Limit portion sizes. Don’t insist your child cleans the plate, and never use food as a reward or bribe.
Make a variety of healthy snacks available instead of empty calorie snacks. Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain snacks, and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) around and easily accessible so kids become used to reaching for healthy snacks instead of empty calorie snacks like soda, chips, or cookies.
Get kids involved. Children enjoy helping adults grocery shop, selecting what goes in their lunch box, and preparing dinner. It's also a chance for you to teach them about the nutritional values of different foods, and (for older children) how to read food labels.
How can I get my picky child to enjoy a wider variety of foods?
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: a game, a play-filled experience. 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.
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