You teach your kids to tie their shoes, share with others, ride a bike and so much more. Many of these things are taught by your example, starting at an early age. Because of your strong influence, you can also teach your children habits that promote a healthy lifestyle.
Here are six ways that you can make a positive difference in your child's eating habits.
- Provide nutritious foods and allow your child to choose - Have nutritious foods on hand such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products, and allow your child to pick out a meal or snack from the healthy foods you have to offer.
- Create a positive meal environment - Eat together as a family. Children who eat dinner with their families at home have a better quality diet overall than those who do not. Sitting down for a family meal also helps to discourage your child from rushing through a meal which may lead to overeating.
- Be a role model - You can tell your children to eat their vegetables and drink their milk, but they are much more likely to mimic your behaviors than they are to listen to your words.
- Try and try again - If your children appear to be picky eaters and don't like certain foods, don't give up. A child's food preferences are learned from repeated exposure to foods. It may take eight or more exposures before they accept a new food. The same holds true for adults. You may find that you actually enjoy things as an adult that you disliked as a child.
- Listen - Your children are born with an innate sense of when their bodies need food and how much they need. It is easy to ignore this by serving children large portions, encouraging them to clean their plates or making them wait until mealtime to satisfy their hunger. Your job is to provide nutritious food, and your children are in charge of when and how much to eat.
- Ask for help in the kitchen - Getting your children involved in the cooking process allows them to take ownership of the food they have to eat. You can also use the opportunity to teach them about where food comes from and what food does for their bodies—provide fuel and nutrients to stay healthy. If kids have a say in what or how food is prepared, they will be more likely to eat it.
Start with one goal and move on to another when you are comfortable. And remember, just like learning to ride a bike, living and modeling healthy behaviors requires practice—for you and your children. The more you practice, the easier these skills become!
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