Eating Tips for Happy, Healthy Kids

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Childhood obesity has taken center stage for many childhood health organizations. As many as 33% of children under the age of 18 are obese, according to reports by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Such statistics are not referring to children that are a few pounds overweight. By definition, a child is obese if he weighs 10% more than he should.

To further worry parents about childhood weight gain is the fact that many obese children will live their lives as obese adults and suffer the resulting health consequences. At the same time, many families find it difficult to fit making home-cooked meals and daily exercise into their already busy schedule. However, raising kids that make healthy food choices doesn’t have to impose on your busy family life. Sometimes, just small daily decisions can make a huge difference in preventing obesity in your child.

1.  No Soda – soda drinks do not have any nutritional value and are loaded with sugar and calories that only serve to put on the pounds. Children do not need soda, so just do not give it ever. Offer water, milk, and sometimes 100% juice instead.

2.  Fruits and Vegetables with Every Meal – include at least one fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack, from breakfast to dinner. This not only helps make the meals you feed your child more balanced, it instills a healthy habit of always having fruits and vegetables on the plate. It’s quick and easy to keep bananas, baby carrots, strawberries, and apples on hand to offer with each meal. Keep some frozen peas and carrots for the times you run out of fresh produce. There’s no need to even cook the frozen peas and carrots. Just open the bag and pour some onto the plate. Many kids love having a “treat” of popsicle peas and carrots.

3.  Eliminate the “Clean Your Plate” Rule – making kids eat everything on their plate, or insisting that they take just one more bite, will only promote unhealthy eating habits. Children naturally know when they are hungry and when they are full. Teaching children to ignore feeling full can lead to overeating and obesity. So if your child takes one bite and does not want any more dinner, then let him be excused from the table. Yes, he probably will be hungry again in an hour. It is normal for children, who have smaller stomachs than adults, to want to eat several small meals throughout the day. You can always save the uneaten dinner for later when he is hungry. This also applies to the “eat all your dinner or no dessert” rule. Again, such rules only encourage overeating. If you do have dessert planned, but do not want that to be the only thing your child eats for dinner, try an “eat your vegetables and you can have dessert” rule. It’s hard to eat too many vegetables.

4.  Keep Healthy Snacks Within Reach – it is time consuming to constantly make meals and snacks for young kids who graze throughout the day. This is probably why many parents find themselves telling their kids to eat everything on their plate, because they don’t want to fix yet another meal an hour later. Encouraging your kids to listen to their bodies in regards to eating doesn’t have to mean that you are constantly catering to them. Give even your young kids some responsibility in making their own healthy snacks by only putting healthy foods within reach. Keep a can of nuts, whole grain bread, and apples on the kitchen counter. In the refrigerator, put baby carrots in the lower produce bin and string cheese, yogurt, and uneaten lunches and dinners on the lower shelves. This way when your child claims to be starving, she can make her own snack with only the healthy choices available to her.

5.  Pack Snacks – if you are taking a long road trip or spending the day running errands, your child will likely get hungry much sooner than you. To keep yourself from taking the easy drive-thru route, pack some healthy snacks and a water bottle to take with you.

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