Monday, November 28, 2011
Getting Children to Eat Healthier
Eating a balanced diet is important for everyone, especially children. Setting good eating habits when young gives children a healthy attitude about food for the rest of their lives.
From around eighteen months to kindergarten age, most kids go through the picky eating stage. Wanting to eat only one or two foods for days at a time can drive a parent nuts. Take a calm approach during this stage. Too much focus on food can lead to mealtime battles and negatives about eating.
Make eating fun for children by serving foods in attractive ways. Cookie cutters are an easy way to make healthy breads and fruits eatable. Arrange fruits and vegetables in the shape of a face or a toy and let them play. Be sure to keep portions small so children are not intimidated. Some examples of portions for children are 1/3 cup of frozen vegetables, 5 - 7 strawberries, 2oz of hamburger meat, one cup of milk or yogurt and 1/2 cup of applesauce. Studies have shown that if you trust your child and serve a good variety, they will get plenty to eat. Some days they may eat everything and the next day almost nothing. Let your child eat until he is full and do not badger him to clean his plate. He will grow up knowing when he is hungry and not eat just to eat.
Offering choices is another good way of getting kids to eat healthy. Just make sure the choices offered are ones that you can live with. Ask them if they want carrots or peas or, which color of glass for drinking. Being given a choice lets the child have some control and can head off many dinnertime battles. Involve them as much as possible depending on their age and ability in decisions for meals. Let them pick out which tomato or apple they think should be used for cooking. In addition, they can help set the table.
Some children will only eat finger foods. As long as the choices presented are good for them, does it really matter if they use their hands? Do not forget to set them a good example. Eat healthy foods yourself and do not be afraid to try new things. If you do not like something, let your kids know why and that it is okay not to like something. However, they first must give it a chance so encourage a one bit rule. It can take up to fifteen offers to get a child to eat a new food so do not give up after the first time or two.
Try to set up regular eating times so they know when a meal is coming. By keeping healthy snacks in the house, your kids will learn to eat what is there. Try not to make any food off-limits. This might set up an unhealthy fixation on that food for when they get older. Having a certain day or meal where they can have that sweet snack, soda or meal lets them know they can have it but it is special.