Brought to you by Michelle Obama’s campaign for a healthier America, this article provides helpful resources to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Supporting Healthy Eating Habits
Food plays an important role in our lives. It nourishes our bodies, brings us together with others around a table, and often is a big part of our family and culture. Nonetheless, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to cater to your child’s food preferences, honor your family’s food traditions, and provide healthy, balanced meals.
Here are some ways to support your child develop healthy eating habits:
Start early and expose your child to a variety of foods. Providing your child with plenty of choices will help them develop a taste for foods over time. One simple and fun way to provide healthy options is to give your child small portions of colorful foods so they can “eat the rainbow” at mealtimes. Remember though, it can take over 10 tries before a person likes a new food so be patient and keep trying!
Take your children grocery shopping. Trips to the grocery store or farmer’s market with your child can be a good opportunity to teach them about new foods and nutrition. While shopping, encourage your child to pick out a new fruit or vegetable and have a taste test when you get home. Letting them participate in food shopping and meal planning will make them more likely to try healthy new foods.
Replace sugary drinks with water. Although 100% fruit juice has some nutritional benefits, most juice is high in sugar and should be consumed in moderation. Soda and other sugary drinks have been linked to childhood obesity and therefore should be avoided. Infuse water with fruit or provide your child with plain seltzer to make their drink a little more interesting!
Try not to use food as a reward. Using food as a reward, such as a dessert for good behavior, sends the message that sugary foods are better than healthy food. This can make your child crave certain foods more or encourage them to develop unhealthy emotional relationships with food. Parents should avoid using food as a reward, or withholding certain foods as punishment, and instead try to one of these great ideas.
Be an active role model. Children learn their eating habits from their parents and family members. Remember that your child is always watching and listening! It’s important for your child to see you eating healthy foods and practicing moderation with special treat.
Enjoy family mealtimes. When children are able to enjoy their meals with their family, sit at a table, and take their time, they are more likely to be aware of their body’s natural signals that they are full and develop healthy eating habits. Whenever possible, use meal time as an opportunity to come together as a family, talk with one another, and model healthy eating habits. You will find that mealtime can be a fun time for the whole family!