It's no surprise that parents might need some help understanding what it means to eat healthy. From the MyPlate food guide to the latest food fad, it can be awfully confusing.
The good news is that you don't need a degree in nutrition to raise healthy kids. Following some basic guidelines can help you encourage your kids to eat right .
Here are 10 key rules to live by:
- Parents control the supply lines. You decide which foods to buy and when to serve them. Though kids will pester their parents for less nutritious foods, adults should be in charge when deciding which foods are regularly stocked in the house. Kids won't go hungry. They'll eat what's available in the cupboard and fridge at home. If their favorite snack isn't all that nutritious, you can still buy it once in a while so they don't feel deprived.
- Get them involved.If you involve kids in planning meals, going grocery shopping, and preparing food, they will become invested in the process and more likely to eat. Even toddlers too young to make grocery lists can help you make choices (pears or pineapples?) along the way.
- Go to the source.Teach kids where their food comes from. Rather than limiting yourself to the weekly supermarket run.
- Make healthy snacks available.If you stock the kitchen exclusively with healthy treats, children will eat them. As your children grow, stock good snacks in cabinets and shelves that they can reach without your help.
- 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%.Mixed fruit drinks like pineapple and passion-fruit can be a fun way to introduce new fruits.
- 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.
- Put sweets in their place. Occasional sweets are fine, but too much of them can cause some problems, such as cavaties.
- 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 bite.
- Quit the "clean-plate club." Let kids stop eating when they feel they've had enough. Lots of parents grew up under the clean-plate rule, but that approach doesn't help kids listen to their own bodies when they feel full. When kids notice and respond to feelings of fullness, they're less likely to overeat.
- Rewrite the kids' menu. Who says kids only want to eat hot dogs, pizza, burgers, and macaroni and cheese? When eating out, let your kids try new foods and they might surprise you with their willingness to experiment.