The earlier you teach children sound eating habits, the more likely they are to maintain a healthy weight. But helping a child learn the right skills takes patience and repetition.
Well-meaning parents often fear their children are eating too little rather than too much. Overfeeding starts as early as the toddler years.
For toddlers, serve a tablespoon of vegetables per meal for each year of age. This may help head off future struggles over getting your child to eat vegetables.
Snacks should be healthy, just like meals. Make produce a key element. Vary the selection of fruits and vegetables to introduce children to new foods. Between ages 2 and 6, children fear new foods, and it may take several tries. But if you don't make the effort, your kids may never develop a taste for healthy foods.
Nine easy steps
1. Add volume to high-fat foods so kids feel satisfied without getting too many calories. For example, top a frozen pizza with mushrooms or broccoli.
2. Have a plan for eating out. Choose fast-food restaurants that offer salads and order low-fat or fat-free dressing.
3. Let children choose lunch foods to take to school. Tangerines, grapes, apples, bananas, carrot sticks, raisins, or graham crackers are healthy, enjoyable examples.
4. Don't let children leave home without breakfast. At least serve a piece of fruit, fat-free milk, and a whole-grain cereal or a slice of whole-grain toast.
5. Take children grocery shopping and let them choose a new fruit or vegetable.
6. Stock the refrigerator with fruits and vegetables, such as berries and low-fat plain yogurt for making smoothies.
7. Play with food. Vegetable "faces" made from carrots may get a child's attention.
8. Don't ban popular snacks like chips; kids may sneak them. Just buy small amounts and offer them less frequently.
9. Urge kids to trade soft drinks for water.