Friday, October 15, 2010

"Clean Your Plate" Is Not The Way For Healthy Kids

Healthy Eating Habits Take a Childhood to Learn and a Lifetime to Live

According to the researchers, a deficiency in healthy eating has caused obesity in the U.S. to more than double among pre-school children and young adults and more than triple for kids aged 6-11 during last 30 years. Obese children have a higher risk of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease and often develop other problems into adulthood.

So how can parents help children develop healthy eating habits?

Talk to your children's pediatrician, your family doctor or dietitian to determine the healthiest target weights for every member of the family. From that, make a plan to solve the problem with a better diet and generally healthy eating.

Follow these tips to help you develop healthy eating habits in your family until you can have those conversations with your doctors of choice.

Healthy Eating Tips

  • Eat at least one meal together every day at regular intervals to prevent snacking. It not only is this a healthy eating habit, but a good source of emotional health, too.
  • Prepare healthy meals for the whole family, not just particular foods for overweight children. If your weight-challenged child has to eat food he or she doesn't like, so do you.
  • Never use food as a reward, comfort, or punishment.
  • Watch portions. "Clean the plate" is not the way to go. If that's how you grew up, consider that portion sizes and what we consider appropriate over the years has increased dramatically.
  • Eat slowly. It takes almost 20 minutes to register in the brain that the body is full. If you're eating quickly, you will end up eating too much.
  • Encourage water or skim milk instead of high calorie, sugary drinks. Doing so will also help keep teeth healthy.
  • Convincing a child to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day is not easy, but focusing on the colors can make it fun when they're young (wouldn't recommend this tactic with teens).
  • Use the low-fat or fat free versions of mayonnaise and other dairy products at home as if they were the tasty full-of-fat versions. Your children will take cues. Ask for the same on the side when eating out.
  • Take the stairs. When you go shopping, park farther from the store and walk. If you take a cruise, everything is withing 4-6 flights, most likely; why take the elevator? (We lost weight on our honeymoon with that strategy) This tip may not be directly related to healthy eating, but physical activity is a must to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Limit television, video games, and computer time. Less time in front of a screen is more time face-to-face with the world, which is better physically, emotionally, and socially. Again, not directly related to healthy eating habits, but a lesson that, when learned, pays off well.
  • Replace mayonnaise and cheese on burgers or sandwiches with ketchup, mustard, or barbecue sauce.
  • Stick with items that are baked, broiled, steamed, or poached. Avoid fried foods. To make it easier for yourself, convince yourself that the smell of raw meat cooked in oils and fats is disgusting. Shouldn't be that hard if you are committed to healthy eating.
  • Ask for nutrition information at restaurants so you can make healthy eating decisions when eating out, too.
  • Get beyond the children's menu, which is often limited to fried, high-calorie foods that are also high in fat. Instead, split a healthy meal between two or more people.
  • Ask for a takeout container and put away some food before eating.
  • Ask that the bread, drinks, and tortilla chips be served with the meal, not before.
Parents can help their children develop healthy eating habits by first choosing to make healthy changes at home and, second, to teach children what to do without. Healthy eating habits do not happen overnight, but children take cues from their parents and learn good (or bad) behaviors over time.

1 comment:

  1. You could also have your child help you plant and nurture an outdoor garden, or even an indoor herb garden. It will teach kids to appreciate whole foods and encourage them to eat their veggies. Plus, it's a great bonding activity.

    You can also let your kids help you cook so they feel invested in the meal (and more inclined to eat it). It can be something as simple as letting them mix the salad in the bowl, stirring a sauce, measuring out ingredients, etc. It's a good way to teach them kitchen safety and good sanitation habits.