Approximately 1 in every 5 children in the United States is obese. While no parent wants their child to struggle with their weight, sometimes it can be difficult to mold them into health-conscious people. Processed foods, video games, and sugary drinks are all factors that contribute to the nation’s battle with obesity. If taught when they are young, children will maintain healthy eating habits even when they are adults. Take note of these ways that you can help your child develop healthy habits:
- It starts with you - Your children are dependent upon your choices for family meals, so start by serving low-fat or nonfat dairy products, lean cuts of meat, whole grains, and nutritious snacks like fruits and vegetables. Make healthy food available in the house and leave those chips, soda and juices at the store. Serve water with meals, and make sure that you’re following suit.
- Slow Down – By eating slowly, children can detect hunger and fullness better. Before they receive a second helping, ask your child to wait 15 minutes after their first serving to see if they are truly still hungry.
- Involve your children in grocery shopping – By taking the kids to the store with you, they can help you decide on what nutritious meals they prefer, learn more about nutrition, and become more willing to try foods that they helped prepare.
- Avoid using food as a punishment or reward – Food should be seen as fuel, not collateral. Withholding food as a punishment may cause children to worry that they won’t get enough food, causing them to overeat in other situations. When treats such as sweets are used as a reward, children might assume that these foods are better or more valuable than other foods.
- Discourage eating in front of the TV – Eating in front of the television distracts children from paying attention to feelings of fullness. This can cause overeating and weight gain. Instead, ensure that children only eat in designated areas of the home, such as the kitchen or dining room.
By encouraging these healthy habits, you can form a positive relationship between your child and food. Talk to your child’s health care provider about creating the right diet for your child’s needs.