Healthy Eating for Kids - Health Essentials at Cleveland Clinic

Healthy Eating for Kids – Health Essentials at Cleveland Clinic

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” While your child won’t literally turn to a fruit salad or a loaf of garlic bread, the food choices they make (and you make for them) have a very literal effect on their bodies.

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Bad childhood eating habits can trace your children into adulthood, causing health problems and difficult relationships with food. By teaching kids about food that is good for their health when they are young, you can prepare them for a lifetime of wellness.

“It’s never too early to start teaching kids good eating habits,” says pediatric dietitian Diana Schnee, MS, RD, CSP, LD.

Healthy eating habits and tips

Food serves many purposes. It can be delicious, fun, and culturally important, and dining with loved ones provides opportunities for bonding and synergy. But food is also a science. Children need healthy foods in the right amounts to help them grow.

“Food is the first type of medicine,” adds the pediatric cardiologist Christina Fink, MD. Children need good nutrition to live, grow and be healthy. But inappropriate or inappropriate types of nutrition can lead to childhood obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, prediabetes, and other problems in adulthood.”

These tips can help you teach your children the eating habits that will prepare them for a healthy future and a positive relationship with food.

1. Determine the times of family meals

Kids thrive on routine, so try to eat together as a family and have meals and snacks served around the same time each day if possible. This way, babies are less likely to graze and overeat. It is also a good time to teach them healthy eating habits and table manners.

“Eating as a family is beneficial for social, emotional and developmental purposes, and eating meals together is an opportunity to teach children portion sizes,” says Dr. Fink. “For example, you can show them that half of our plates should be non-starchy vegetables and some fruit.”

Limit meals to a reasonable amount of time, no more than 30 minutes. You can even set a timer to reinforce this expectation and help kids focus during meals.

2. Eat breakfast

Is breakfast really the most important part of the day? Well, hmm All Very important – but eating a healthy breakfast gives your child the fuel they need to get through the day and help them grow and develop properly.

“It doesn’t have to be a big or elaborate meal, just something nutritious to energize their bodies and fuel their metabolism for the day,” says Dr. Fink.

Definitely don’t stress about the idea of ​​making a neat breakfast from scratch every morning. Instead, turn to easy, kid-friendly, nutritionist-approved breakfast ideas, like whole-wheat toast with natural peanut butter or plain Greek yogurt sprinkled with high-fiber, low-sugar cereal and a handful of fruit.

3. Eating a la carte early

It can be nearly impossible to deal with children’s eating preferences, but with intent and patience, you can nip them in the bud early.

Continue to offer a variety of foods during meals to encourage exploration and allow exposure. Schnee says it’s fine to let kids (even the picky little ones) choose from what’s on their plate, and it’s okay if they choose only one or two things. But don’t prepare separate meals for picky eaters.

“You’re not a short-term cook,” she says. “Make a decision about what you are going to serve, and stick to it. If your child asks for something else, you can make it clear that it is not on the menu for the day but offer to make it another night.”

For kids who are in kindergarten and up, Dr. Fink suggests making the three-bite rule. “Your child should try at least three bites of the food, just to give him a chance. Even then, they will need to try the food 15 or more times before they can say they don’t really like it,” she says. “Sometimes figuring out their taste is just a trial and error.”

4. Involve children in meal planning and preparation

Like the rest of us, kids love to have a say in what they do, and giving them choices allows them to feel independent and invested. Here are some ways you can let them participate in the preparation of family meals and snacks:

  • Take them to the grocery store. Give them simple choices, such as “Do you want to buy red apples or green apples?”
  • Ask them to choose a food. Once in a while, let the kids decide which vegetables to serve for dinner. “The feeling of pride they get from helping to prepare vegetables may increase their desire to eat them,” says Schnee.
  • Give them small tasks. Kids can participate in age-appropriate kitchen responsibilities, such as mixing ingredients, washing fruits and vegetables, or peeling potatoes.

5. Read nutrition labels

Speaking of letting the kids participate, you can turn your family’s grocery shopping trips into educational life lessons disguised as adventures (and, of course, time together).

“When you go to the store together, you can show them different types of foods and start teaching them how to read food labels,” Dr. Fink suggests. “You can review the different ingredients with them and talk about the carbs, sugar, and fat content — all in age-appropriate ways, of course.”

6. Make water a priority

If your child’s only chance to drink water during the school day comes from passing by the drinking fountain, he may feel thirsty or even dehydrated when he gets home — and he may not even realize it.

Dr. Fink recommends: “When your kids come home from school, have them drink some water instead of snacking right away.” “If they don’t get enough water, kids sometimes think they’re hungry when they’re actually thirsty.”

7. Limit snacks

Snacking is practically a national pastime, but it’s not a healthy way to pass the time. To inculcate healthy snacking habits, try to teach your kids not to snack out of boredom.

“Snacks can be healthy and nutritious and we enjoy them because they taste good, but we shouldn’t eat just because we don’t have anything else to do,” says Dr. Fink. “Instead, fill this time with other activities useful for growth and development.”

8. Encourage Mindful Eating

Do you know the phrase “stop and smell the roses”? The same idea applies to food. When you take the time to enjoy the taste, texture, and sensations of your food, you really begin to appreciate the experience. This is called mindful eating.

When you give your kids an apple, you can say, for example, “Look at that beautiful red. Look how crunchy it is?” This sets the tone for analyzing and appreciating the food, which also helps reduce the chances of overeating. When kids are eating, and they are already used to noticing and enjoying the flavors and textures of each bite, they will likely eat more slowly and recognize when they are full.

9. Abolishing the Clean Dishes Club

Speaking of mindful eating, it is important that we all, even children, learn to recognize the cues of inner hunger and fullness.

“Younger children, like toddlers, are very adept at self-regulation,” Dr. Fink says. They will eat food so that they do not go hungry. Encouraging them to eat more than they are hungry for can actually lead to a pattern of overeating.”

So, don’t insist that the kids clean their dishes in order to get candy. “There’s no magic amount of how much food they need to earn the dessert, but they had to make a reasonable attempt to try the meal,” Schnee adds.

10. No forbidden foods

When you make a completely forbidden food, you risk making your child more They care about that food – and then, they’re likely to overeat it whenever they get the chance. Instead, take a balanced approach by encouraging smaller portions and Healthier treats.

You can also mimic good eating habits in the foods your child sees you eat as well. For example, it’s okay to go out for ice cream, but everyone in the family can order a child size and opt for frozen yogurt with dark chocolate instead of sprinkles and hot fudge.

“Find ways to incorporate these foods sometimes, and your kids will have a more healthy approach,” Schnee advises.

11. Make small but important trade-offs

Eating healthy with your kids doesn’t mean you can never eat out – even at fast food restaurants. But look for opportunities to balance your unhealthy food choices with your smarter, healthier food choices. “Everything in moderation,” says the old saying.

“If you have something unhealthy, think about how you can balance it,” Dr. Fink suggests. Look for simple and healthy swaps, such as substituting french fries for apple slices, soda with milk, whole wheat white bread, etc.

Don’t forget physical activity

Well, well, this is not nutritional advice. But when it comes to health, diet and exercise are closely related. “Kids are not as active as they were 10 or 20 years ago,” says Dr. Fink. Therefore, it is important to teach children the fun (and health) of movement.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says: Children aged 3 to 5 years require physical activity throughout the day, while children aged 6 years and older need 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

This does not mean that you put your child in the circle of heart. Just make sure they’re moving, period – whether it’s running outside with friends or riding a bike with family,

Be a good role model

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then parents should take themselves seriously. Your children pick up on the habits and values ​​you represent to them, so be sure to show them the ways of life you want them to emulate.

“Being healthy as a family is very important,” notes Dr. Fink. “If you want your children to have healthy habits, you as a parent need to follow those habits as well.”

Let your kids see that you try new cuisines, cook meals at home, shop for healthy foods and embrace movement and exercise.

To hear more from Dr. Fink on this topic, listen to the episode of the Health Essentials podcast “How to talk to your kids about healthy nutrition (and why it’s important).” New episodes of the Health Essentials Podcast are published every Wednesday.

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