I know that maintaining a healthy diet takes hard work and perseverance, especially in a culture of fast food nutrition and couch potato fitness. But it's worth it for your child's well-being and happiness. Below are a few tips you can use to help your child eat a healthier diet:
1. Drink water. One of the best things you can do for your child is get him used to drinking water at a young age. Many kids and teens drink more calories than they eat each day. Soda, juice, fruit smoothies, and flavored coffees all contain sugar that kids don't need. And they definitely don't need the caffeine. Remember to set the example by drinking water yourself. How can you expect your kids to drink water if you don't?
2. Serve fruits and veggies more often. This can be a tough sell, I know. But the more fruits and veggies you give young children, the healthier food choices they will make when they get older. Don't give your child junk food just because he doesn't like what you made for dinner. If you're going to offer him a back up, it needs to be another healthy option.
3. Toss the junk food. Get all the chips, cookies, and candy out of the house. If there are only healthy snack items at home, your kids won't have a choice but to snack on what's good for them. And with time, they'll get used to carrot sticks with ranch dressing, or apples with peanut butter.
4. Increase dairy, but decrease percentages. After age 2, all children should drink either non-fat or 1% milk. There's a lot of extra fat and calories in 2% and whole milk that kids over 2 don't need. Non-fat milk has essentially the same important nutrients as whole milk, including protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Remember, non-fat and low fat yogurts and cheeses are great for getting the 3 servings of dairy recommended for children each day.
5. Limit portion sizes. Thanks to super-sized products, our children have grown accustomed to much larger portions of everything. An age-appropriate portion size is about what fits in the palm of your child's hand. Never let your children snack out of a large bag or container. Instead, give them an appropriately sized portion and put the rest away. Only allow kids to get seconds when eating fruits and veggies. That way you don't have to say no to food if their hungry, but their choices are simple and healthy. It's also best not to teach kids that they must clean their plate. Help them learn when they are full and when to stop eating.
As a parent, it's up to you to be the role model of healthy habits for your family. I rarely see a child who has a healthier diet than his parents. The sooner you encourage healthy eating habits at home, the sooner you'll see a difference. It's a lifelong commitment for you and your whole family.
So how do you ensure healthy eating habits at home with your kids?
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