We all know that kids eat what is available. Because adults usually decide what food kids will eat, it’s important to help them form healthy eating habits now to maintain a healthy weight and avoid future health problems. Small changes in the following key areas can make a huge difference.
Fruits and Vegetables
Kids should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables count too, so serve those if fresh ones aren’t available. Offer kids 100 percent juice with no added sugar. For picky eaters, you can mix or hide them in other dishes, like putting peas in rice or cucumbers on sandwiches.
Reduce Fat and Sugar
- Buy low- or nonfat dairy products like milk and yogurt
- Choose lean cuts of meat like skinless chicken
- Bake instead of fry
- Substitute olive or vegetable oil for butter
- Provide less soda and sugar-sweetened drinks
- Serve fruit-based desserts instead of ice cream or cake
Start by reducing the number of snacks served each day. Differentiate between snacks that require permission, such as cookies, and snacks that kids can take freely, like fruit or carrot sticks.
Watch Portion Size
Kids are smaller than adults, so they should eat smaller portions. Portions should be about the size of a child’s fist. Use a smaller plate for kids if you are not sure about portion sizes. They can have seconds if they are still hungry, but do not force them to clean their plates if they are full.
Eating together is important for teaching kids to eat well. Family meals focus on eating and enjoying food and each other, and eating together is an opportunity to model good behavior. Regularly scheduled meal and snack times help kids learn a structure for eating that they will carry with them as they grow up.
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