Thanksgiving is a time for enjoying family feasts, a day most of us set
diets aside. Although it’s okay to indulge for the holiday, the
sooner you teach your children healthy eating habits, the better prepared
they will be to maintain a healthy weight and grow normally.
Learning to eat right when children are young will bring them lifelong
benefits. As a parent, you should continually encourage your kids to evaluate
their food choices and their daily physical activities. Also, by modeling
these behaviors yourself, your children will learn by watching you, and
your entire family will reap the rewards of eating better and living a
Your children's pediatrician will evaluate their weight and growth,
and let you know if they need to lose or gain weight and whether any additional
dietary changes need to be made.
Some of the most important aspects of healthy eating are portion control
and cutting down on how much fat, sugar, and processed food that your
child eats. Some simple ways to reduce fat intake in your child's
diet and promote a healthier weight include serving:
- Healthy snacks such as pre-prepared fruits and vegetables
- Low-fat or non fat dairy products
Poultry with no skin (baked is always preferable to deep-fried)
- Limited amounts of whole grain breads and cereals
- Small portions of lean cuts of meat
Also, it is of paramount importance to drastically reduce the amount of
sugar-sweetened drinks, soft drinks, heavily-processed foods, and salt
in your child's diet.
If you are unsure about how to select and prepare healthy meals for your
family, ask your pediatrician or a registered dietitian for nutrition
counseling.It is important that you do not place an overweight child on
a restrictive diet without talking to your family pediatrician first.
Here are some other approaches that help parents develop healthy eating
habits in their children:
Guide, but don’t dictate, your family’seating choices. Make sure a variety of healthy foods are available at home. This will
help your children learn how to make their own healthy food choices and
figure out that healthy foods taste good. Leave junk foods like chips,
soda, and artificial juice at the store.
Encourage your children to eat slowly. A child can detect hunger and fullness much better when they eat slowly
and deliberately. Before offering a second helping or serving, ask your
child to wait at least 15 minutes to determine if they are still truly
hungry. This will give their brain time to register fullness. Also, a
second helping should always be much smaller than the first.
Eat meals together as a family as much as possible. Try not to make a habit of eating meals or snacks while watching TV. And
make mealtime an enjoyable occasion for conversation, not a time for arguing
or nagging. If mealtime isn’t enjoyable, the kids will wolf down
their food and do whatever else it takes to leave the table as soon as
possible. You don’t want your children to associate eating with stress.
Include the kids in food shopping and cooking. This will give you an indication of your child’s food preferences
and is an opportunity to teach them about nutrition. Children are often
more willing to eat or sample new foods if they have helped to make them,
so plan for and prepare healthy snacks.
Encourage your children to drink more water. Always serve water with meals.
Wilfredo Alejo, MD, is a pediatrician at St. Jude Heritage Medical Group.
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