Following some basic guidelines can help you encourage your kids to eat healthy. Here are some rules to live by:
- Parents control the supply lines. Keep the foods you want your children to choose on hand. Kids won’t go hungry. They’ll eat what’s available.
- Kids get to choose what they eat from what is available or whether to eat at all. This may seem like a lot of freedom, but if you control the supply, your kids will be choosing from the healthy foods you buy and serve.
- Quit the “clean-plate club.” Let kids stop eating when they feel they’ve had enough. When kids notice and respond to feelings of fullness, they’re less likely to overeat.
- Start them young. Food preferences are developed early in life, so offer variety. Likes and dislikes begin forming even when kids are babies. You may need to serve a new food a multiple times for a child to accept it.
- Rewrite the kids’ menu. Who says kids only want to eat hot dogs, pizza, burgers, and macaroni and cheese? When eating out, let your kids try new foods and they might surprise you with their willingness to experiment.
- Drink calories count. Soda and other sweetened drinks add extra calories and get in the way of good nutrition. Water and milk are the best drinks for kids.
- Put sweets in their place. Occasional sweets are fine, but don’t turn dessert into the main reason for eating dinner. When dessert is the prize for eating dinner, kids naturally place more value on the cupcake than the broccoli. Try to stay neutral about foods.
- Kids do as you do. Be a role model and eat healthy yourself. Choose nutritious snacks, eat at the table, and don’t skip meals.