Making sure your children have good eating habits is one of the most important steps you can take in ensuring their overall health and wellness. As a parent, you can help by learning how to teach your child healthy eating habits that will last them a lifetime.
Why is Healthy Eating Important for a Child?
Healthy eating habits are important for a child’s growth and development. Eating the right kind of food helps to fuel their bodies, build strong bones and muscles, prevent illnesses, and maintain a healthy weight. It also boosts concentration, energy levels, moods, and overall well-being.
How to Teach Your Child Healthy Eating Habits
Healthy eating habits start at home. As a parent, you can help your child learn and maintain good eating habits by setting a positive example and educating them from a young age.
Start Teaching Healthy Eating Habits Early
The best time to start teaching your child about healthy eating habits is when they’re young. Introduce them to various fruits and vegetables from an early age so that they can learn to love trying different things
Be a Good Role Model at Home
Children tend to observe what their parents do more than what they say. As such, it’s important for you to show them that nutritious food can be tasty and enjoyable, by setting a positive example when it comes to what is being eaten in the household.
Involve Your Child in Food Preparation
Let your child help with shopping and preparing meals. This will encourage them to try new foods and make healthier decisions when they are presented with choices. Additionally, they feel empowered knowing that they had an impact on their mealtime.
Make Healthy Eating Fun
Get creative with healthy snacks such as veggie sticks or fruits cut into fun shapes. Create a friendly competition where your child has to guess what each of the foods is by just looking at them or giving points for different types of vegetables being consumed in one day.
Educate Your Child on the Benefits of Eating Diversely
Teach your child to make healthy food choices by taking them grocery shopping and letting them pick out a few things they would like to try. Explain the importance of healthy eating habits, why it’s important to eat a variety of foods, and how it contributes to their growth and development.
Parents should offer a variety of age-appropriate healthy foods for their child to snack on (e.g., puréed fruits and vegetables, orange slices, apples, or carrots).
Create meals that include:
- A protein (e.g., beans, poultry, or tofu)
- A vegetable or fruit (e.g., green beans, peas, or bananas)
- A healthy fat source (e.g., nuts or pieces of avocado)
- A starchy grain or vegetable (e.g., rice or sweet potatoes)
Demonstrate Portion Control
Many parents probably remember hearing that there are starving children somewhere in the world, which is why they need to clean their plates. Unfortunately, this does not build a healthy relationship with food and may have contributed to the current issues of obesity in America. Instead, parents and their children should eat until they have satisfied their hunger or until they no longer find the food they are consuming appealing.
Schedule Specific Times To Snack and Eat a Meal
Structure and routines usually help children thrive, which is why creating a meal and snack schedule is so beneficial. Research indicates that following a meal schedule is linked to a good metabolism, as well as a decrease in body weight. In addition, most children benefit from a schedule that includes three meals a day, with two snacks in between.
Here is an example of a meal and snack schedule:
- 7:30 a.m. — Breakfast
- 9:30 a.m. — Snack
- 12:30 p.m. — Lunch
- 3:30 p.m. — Snack
- 6:30 p.m. — Dinner
Avoid Making Food a Reward or a Crutch
Many parents entice their children to be good or follow the rules by offering snacks as a reward. When parents use food as a crutch or as a reward, their child builds an unhealthy relationship with food.
Do Not Restrict Junk Food Completely
Allow your child to indulge in treats from time to time, as this will help reduce cravings for unhealthy snacks later on in life. Compromise with your child and agree upon an allotted amount of junk food that can be eaten per week or month.
Practice Patience with Your Child’s Diet
Even when a child does not try a food, or tries the food and does not care for it, parents should continue offering these foods to their child. A child may require numerous exposures to food before he or she finally decides to eat it. Some children must be exposed to food 15 times before finally consuming it.
It’s important to keep in mind that teaching your child healthy eating habits takes time, consistency, and patience. Praise them when they make good decisions and be patient with them if it takes longer than expected for them to adjust to the new changes. With your guidance, your children will soon internalize good eating habits for life.
How Can a Pediatric Nutritionist Help Your Child Build Healthy Eating Habits?
A pediatric nutritionist can help your child learn and maintain healthy eating habits. They will assess their diet and provide advice on how to build a balanced meal plan that is tailored specifically to their needs. Additionally, they will help you develop strategies for improving behaviors around food choices and establishing healthy eating patterns.
A pediatric dietitian can:
- Promote healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices for children and their parents.
- Establish and then address a child’s specific health needs.
- Plan menus to meet the child’s needs.
- Write and maintain reports detailing his or her progress.
- Work with the child’s other healthcare professionals to provide optimal care.
Nutritionist Services for Children at Parker Pediatrics
We understand that learning how to teach your child healthy eating habits is an ongoing process that requires patience and dedication, but at Parker Pediatrics, we are here to make the journey easier. Contact us today by calling 303-841-2905 to learn how we can help you get started.
Original copy post date: 06/13/2022