By: Stephanie Walsh, MD
When your child eats right, her body grows stronger, her brain becomes more alert and she is generally happier. Healthy eating habits provide lifelong rewards, in terms of both improved health and happiness. Getting kids to think beyond mac ‘n’ cheese, however, can be a real challenge.
The good news is that you have the ability to change your family’s habits. Kids are imitators; when they see us eating right, they follow suit. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy occasional treats – just do so in moderation.
Next, minimize power struggles by understanding the “Ps and Cs.” It’s a parent’s job to plan, prepare and provide nutritious foods. It’s a kids job to choose whether, what and how much to eat.
Help kids eat well at every age!
Infants/Toddlers: Recognize Hunger:
Children instinctively know when they’re hungry, so follow their lead. Help kids stay tuned in to their hunger cues by:
- Breastfeeding. You can’t overfeed an exclusively breastfed baby, so feel free to nurse when and as long as the baby wants.
- Trusting you toddler’s appetite. If your toddler is growing, she’s eating enough.
- Seeing the big picture. Your child’s diet balances out over several days.
Elementary School: Plan Ahead, Get Kids Cooking
Busy schedules call for advanced meal planning, but it doesn’t have to be a total chore.
- Involve kids in planning/making meals. They’re more likely to eat foods they prepare.
- Stock easy, quick meal options like frozen veggies, whole-grain pasta and low-fat cheese.
- Use snacks as mini-meals, not filler. Keep healthy, grab-and-go foods accessible.
Middle School and Beyond: Reinforce Healthy Habits
Parental influence still matters!
- Eat together and at home whenever possible, and keep modeling good habits.
- Don’t restrict foods; likely it will backfire.
- Praise your child’s healthy behaviors and choices, not their weight
One of the best means of changing your family’s habits is you. for more tools and support, visit www.strong4life.com.