Parents often wonder how to encourage young children to eat healthy food and snacks, especially when the children are viewing enticing TV commercials that advocate unhealthy junk food. Nutritious food is necessary for the development of muscles and bones, normal growth, and mental development. There are a few ways to help form habits for your child that will help establish healthy eating habits for their lifetime.
n Following the Leader: Eating healthy foods with your kids shows them that it is not out of the norm, and that you enjoy eating these foods. You must be willing to make the change to healthy eating habits if you expect your children to do the same!
n Snack Time!: Snack time is a great time for daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt, and cheese. If cookies and candy are a necessity, they can be used as rewards on special occasions, but not for everyday snacking.
n Make Exercise fun: Children should exercise and be physically active, whether this is through an organized sport such as tennis or basketball, or by just taking your child to a park where they can run, jump, and play.
The habit of eating breakfast every day helps to enhance a child’s performance in school. Without the nutrients available in vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, children may experience stunted growth and lowered immunity.
There are plenty of ideas for fun lunches to help your child develop the taste for healthy foods over only unhealthy options. Children think foods in different shapes make them more interesting, so cut and shape their sandwiches in various ways. These sandwiches can include tuna, chicken, cheese, and vegetables. Mini-sandwiches can be made with cream cheese and cucumber slices.
Whatever your children eat, try to keep burgers and fries to a minimum. Instead try to guide them in the direction of healthy eating, which will help them for the rest of their life.
Susan Matherly is director at A Children’s Place, a service of Ephraim McDowell Health.