How to Make Better Dietary Choices
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The percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s, according to the CDC. With September being Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, it’s a perfect time to think about your family’s nutrition. Here are a few ways to help your child develop healthy eating habits.
When it comes to making healthy choices, being prepared is half the battle. Sit down with your calendar to make a weekly meal plan, keeping in mind the evenings when you will have after-school activities. Plan your healthy meals, but be realistic about the time you will have to prepare them. Make it a goal to include all of the major food groups into mealtime: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein.
When time allows, invite your child to assist you in meal preparation. They will be more likely to try new foods when they have participated in the cooking process. Keep your conversation upbeat and stress-free while cooking and at the dinner table, and eat as a family whenever possible.
This one is tricky, especially when your child is whining. One thing that will make it easier is planning ahead and having healthy snacks prepared and on hand. For example, keep fresh sliced veggies on hand or pair nut butter with a whole grain mini-bagel.
Children have a funny way of picking up on our vibes. A flippant statement like, “I hate tomatoes,” could turn your child off to tomatoes without ever having tried them. Discourage yourself and others from making these kinds of negative comments about food. Instead, talk about the color, feel and flavor of foods in ways that will sound appealing to your child.
Persistence is the key to expanding your child’s palette, as it can take up to twelve tries for them to accept a new food. But don’t give up. Keep offering a variety of foods with your end goal in mind. The more foods your child will eat, the easier meal planning will become!
Shopping can teach your child so many lessons: about food and healthy eating, about where our food comes from and about budgeting and making a plan. In addition, your child will be naturally inquisitive about new foods and what they taste like. Encourage them to choose a fruit or vegetable that they (and maybe even you) have never tried. For example, who wouldn’t be curious about the taste of dragon fruit!
Controlling moms, this one may be difficult for you. They may drop some food on the table, but how else will they learn? Include smaller cuts of meat or fish that are more manageable for them to pick up. Set the table with smaller utensils, so they get just the right amount. Encourage your child to ask for more if they are still hungry. This creates a sense of healthy independence and positive feelings about mealtime.
Water helps to quench your preschooler’s thirst! The goal should be half your child’s body weight in ounces of clean, filtered water per day.
Encourage your child to stop eating when they are full, rather than when their plate is clean. Additionally, when your child is no longer interested in the meal, excuse them from the table. This may seem to go against the way some of us learned, but would you rather set them up for healthy success, or a lifetime of feeling guilty for not finishing all the food on their plate?
Rewarding children with sweets or snacks may encourage them to think that treats are better than other foods. Shower them with care and praise, not food.
Children need sixty minutes of daily physical activity. Why not make an activity plan for the whole family? Encourage children to decrease screen time by making your plan fun. Plan ways to be active together, and ask for their input. You may be surprised at the ideas they come up with!
Remember, it’s not easy to change a habit, but a little planning and forethought will help. Even one small change is a step in the right direction, and before you know it, that change can become a habit. Children learn by example. Modeling healthy food and activity choices will set your child up for a lifetime of healthy habits.
If you’re ready to get started on the path to wellness schedule a consultation.