Children's Health and Wellness

Eat Well, for Your Children's Sake

You can tell your children how to eat well, but experts say it's better to show them.

Children learn by watching their parents. If your favorite restaurant is the "All You Can Eat Buffet" and your number one vegetable is the french fry, you're sending the wrong message.

Good role models have never been more important. About one in five kids in America is seriously overweight. High cholesterol and type 2 diabetes are rising steadily among the young.

Children must learn from their parents and caregivers to value themselves, eat nutritiously, and get proper exercise and rest.

Here's some expert advice:

  • Dine as a family. Studies indicate that children who regularly eat dinner with their family consume more fruits, vegetables, and fiber and less saturated fat, trans fat, fried foods, and soda.

  • Go for healthy foods and drinks. Researchers have found that girls' drink choices mirrored their mothers' choices. Girls were more likely to choose milk over soft drinks because their mothers did so.

  • Switch to smaller portions. Super-sized portions can hurt children's eating habits and waistlines. It takes just 48 extra calories a day (seven potato chips) to gain five pounds a year. If possible, let children serve themselves.

  • Eat out with restraint. Visit restaurants just once or twice a week, and press children to get small orders of fast food if no healthier choice is available. Share a dinner portion with children and add a salad or other vegetables if children are still hungry.

  • Let children some make decisions. Research suggests that children whose diets are either strictly controlled or minimally monitored by their parents are more likely to indulge in those "forbidden" foods.

  • Provide a variety of healthy choices. Then let children choose from that selection. This satisfies children's need for independence and gives parents some control over what their children eat.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Avoid unhealthy approaches to weight loss, such as fad diets or diet pills. Emphasize the importance of being fit and healthy as opposed to being thin.

  • Stay active. Eating is just part of the equation. Stay physically active as a family by walking, biking, or swimming. Limit kids' time in front of the television and computer.

Print Source: Starting Out Healthy/Summer 2004
Online Source: CDChttp://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html
Online Source: U.S. Department of Agriculturehttp://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/PolicyDoc.pdf
Online Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dieteticshttp://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442474585&terms=healthy%20role%20model
Online Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dieteticshttps://www.eatright.org/Shop/Product.aspx?id=6442467325
Author: McIver, Steve
Online Editor: Green, Chelsea
Online Medical Reviewer: McClintock, Heidi, RD, LD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/28/2013
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