There are many things you can do to help your children develop healthy habits for life. Try to integrate some of these tips into your family time. Cook together, eat together, talk together, and make mealtime a must!
1. SHOW THEM VARIETY
Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains with meals or as snacks. Offering a variety of foods helps children get the nutrients they need from every food group. Let your child see that you like to munch raw veggies!
2. DISCOVER NEW HEALTHY HABITS BY FOOD SHOPPING TOGETHER
3. GET CREATIVE IN THE KITCHEN
Cut food into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters. Name a dish after your child if they help make it. Serve “Mackenzie Salad” or “Emma’s Sweet Potatoes” for dinner. Encourage your child to invent new snacks. Make your own trail mixes from dry whole-grain, low-sugar cereal and dried fruit.
4. OFFER THE SAME FOODS FOR EVERYONE
Stop being a “short-order cook” by making different meals to please children. It’s easier to plan when everyone eats the same foods. They will also be more likely to try new foods with you, and to like more foods! Children are more likely to sample something unfamiliar at the beginning of a meal, when very hungry. If you have a picky eater, add a small portion of one of your child’s favorites.
5. REWARD WITH ATTENTION, NOT FOOD
Show your love with hugs and kisses. Comfort with hugs and talks. Choose not to offer sweets as rewards. It lets your child think sweets or dessert foods are better than other foods. When meals are not eaten, kids do not need “extras” like candy or cookies as replacement foods.
6. FOCUS ON EACH OTHER AT THE TABLE
Turn off the television. Take phone calls later. Try to make eating meals a stress-free time. Talk about fun and happy things.
7. LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD
If your child says he or she is hungry, offer a small, healthy snack—even if it is not a scheduled time to eat. Provide choices. Ask “Which would like for dinner: broccoli or cauliflower?” instead of “Do you want broccoli for dinner?”
8. LIMIT SCREEN TIME
Allow no more than 2 hours a day of screen time like TV and computer games. Get up and move during commercials to get some physical activity.
9. ENCOURAGE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Make physical activity fun for the whole family. Involve your children in the planning. Walk, run, and play, instead of sitting on the sidelines. Set an example by being active and using safety gear, like bike helmets. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition has different ways to add extra steps to your day and keep moving at home.
10. BE A GOOD FOOD ROLE MODEL
Try new foods yourself. Describe the taste, texture, and smell. Make it feel special and grown-up. Offer to share one new food at a time.