|How do I get my children to eat healthfully?|
These tips will help you encourage your children to eat well. The best part? They won’t even know what you’re up to!
- Set a good example. A child who sees his or her parents enjoying fruits, vegetables and a variety of other healthful foods prepared in many different ways is more likely to accept those foods. By the same token, a child who watches his or her parents reach for potato chips and ice cream will want to do the same.
- Don’t start your own chapter of the clean-plate club. When a child is full, he or she will stop eating. If parents insist that a plate be left clean, a child learns to ignore the signals his or her body is sending. That can lead to overeating and, eventually, obesity.
- Downplay dessert. If your children are still very young, don’t get in the dessert habit. Instead, make it a family custom to eat fruit at the end of a meal. If you have older children who are used to dessert, stop offering it automatically. When children ask for something sweet, offer them fruit, raisins, yogurt or low-fat treats like animal crackers or Fig Newtons. Never use dessert as a reward—not even for eating all the vegetables on a plate!
- Don’t praise or criticize what your child chooses to eat. Food should be a neutral area—not attached to any emotions (either positive or negative) or to your child’s self-esteem. In fact, the best thing parents can do is stay out of a child’s meal once it’s prepared and on the table. At any given meal, you’ve done your job if you present a variety of good foods, at least some of which you know your child will eat.
- Don’t use food to comfort a child. It’s tempting to offer a cookie to distract a crying child, but doing so will likely encourage him or her to associate food with comfort. Instead, offer to play a favorite game or read a special book.