Whether you have a toddler or a teen, here are some of the best strategies to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits:
1. Have regular family meals. Family meals are a comforting ritual for both
parents and kids. Even though schedules may conflict it will give you time to catch
up with family members. Kids who take part in regular family meals are also more
likely to eat fruits, vegetables and grains, less likely to snack on unhealthy foods
and less likely to smoke, use marijuana, or drink alcohol.
2. Parents control the supply lines. Adults should be in charge of deciding which
foods are regularly stocked in the house. Kids won't go hungry. They'll eat what's
available. If their favorite snack isn't all that nutritious, you can still buy it once in a
while so they don't feel deprived.
3. Quit the "clean-plate club." Let kids stop eating when they feel they've had
enough. When kids notice and respond to feelings of fullness, they're less likely to
4. Start them young. Food preferences are developed early in life, so offer variety.
Likes and dislikes begin forming even when kids are babies. You may need to
serve a new food on several different occasions for a child to accept it. Don't
force a child to eat, but offer a few bites. With older kids, ask them to try one
5. Rewrite the kids' menu. When eating out, let your kids try new foods and they
might surprise you with their willingness to experiment. You can start by letting
them try a little of whatever you ordered or ordering an appetizer for them to try.
6. Drink calories count. Soda and other sweetened drinks add extra calories and
get in the way of good nutrition. Water and milk are the best drinks for kids. Juice
is fine when it's 100%, but kids don't need much of it — 4 to 6 ounces a day is
enough for preschoolers.
7. Put sweets in their place. Occasional sweets are fine, but don't turn dessert into
the main reason for eating dinner. Try to stay neutral about foods.
8. Food is not love. Find better ways to say "I love you." When foods are used to
reward kids and show affection, they may start using food to cope with stress or
other emotions. Offer hugs, praise, and attention instead of food treats.
9. Kids do as you do. Be a role model and eat healthy yourself. When trying to
teach good eating habits, try to set the best example possible. Choose nutritious
snacks, eat at the table, and don't skip meals.
10. Limit TV and computer time. When you do, you'll avoid mindless snacking and
encourage activity. Research has shown that kids who cut down on TV watching
also reduced their percentage of body fat. When TV and computer time are
limited, they'll find more active things to do. And limiting "screen time" means you'll
have more time to be active together.
Check out the following links for more information about health eating: