How can I develop healthy eating habits for my children?

Helping our youth learn about good nutrition is very important in helping them to grow into healthy adults. It is great that you are interested in teaching them healthy habits! Please remember that kids are very impressionable and many of them watch their parents’ diet/lifestyle closely. So the first step in raising healthy kids is to make sure you are following a healthy diet yourself. Be sure your children see you make healthy food choices when you eat at home and when you are out in restaurants. Also be careful using self-defeating words about yourself around your kids. I have many patients that tell me they “hate” their weight and they feel they look “fat and disgusting”. You don’t want your kids growing up thinking their sole worth is based on appearances, so be sure to carry positive energy into the nutrition discussions with your kids.

Children that grow up in households where healthy cooking/nutrition are discussed will learn at an early age how important it is to eat well. The first thing I would recommend is getting them involved in grocery planning and shopping. Sit down and talk about foods and meals that the whole family enjoys and plan meals accordingly. Also think about meals that can lead to healthy leftovers for next day lunches. At the grocery store, challenge your kids to choose a new fruit or vegetable each week and let them decide which night it will be served. Explain to them the difference between whole wheat and white pasta, corn syrup and natural sugar, “good” vs. “not-so-good” fats, etc. Try to limit exposure to the “snack” food aisle and spend the majority of your time along the perimeter of the grocery store. Now is the time to roll up your sleeves and get your kids into the kitchen! Let them dig in and get their hands dirty! Involve them in the dinner preparation by letting them wash produce, set the table, or (for older kids) chop up ingredients. During dinner, point out and discuss the yummy flavors of the food. Challenge the kids to guess what spices were used in cooking. You may also plan a trip to the library with your kids. Look at kid friendly nutrition books and have discussion about the basics of good nutrition and the importance of physical activity.

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