Dr. Christine Wood, practicing pediatrician, author, instructor on healthy lifestyles for parents and children, and member of USANA’s Scientific Advisory Council, is offering her expert advice here on What’s Up, USANA? to help you brave the winter months with gusto.
She’s offering tips on how you can take control of your family’s health during the busiest time of the year.
Don’t be a short order cook for your children. If you are, they will learn to hold out for “their foods” (usually the less healthy “kid” foods) and will be less likely to try new things that you have prepared for the whole family.
Avoid battling with your kids over how much to eat. Remember that the parent’s job is to pick and choose what, when, and where to eat, and it is the child’s job to pick and choose how much to eat and whether to eat. Respect their appetites. For those ultra-picky eaters, offer a bite or two of food on their plate and let them succeed with eating small amounts.
Keep offering foods your child may have refused in the past. This is especially important with toddlers — they may refuse a food one day and love it the next. Be patient and non-judgmental in your approach.
Show your own enjoyment of eating healthy foods. Buy and try new fruits and vegetables that you might not normally eat. Studies show that kids will follow the mother’s food preferences for food choices and most food preferences are set within the first two to three years of life.
Don’t bribe or reward with food. Don’t use food to try to change behavior. Use other rewards like stickers or a stamp on their hands.
Watch the portion sizes. Studies found that giving young children meals that are larger than age-appropriate can lead to overeating. Offer small first servings and then offer second servings if they are still hungry. The new My Plate from the USDA shows that half of our plates should be fruits and vegetables, one quarter grains, and one quarter proteins.
Make every effort to have family meals together. Although life is busy, eating together as a family encourages better eating habits. Studies found that teens who ate dinner at home were more likely to have a healthier diet.
Turn off the television during meals and don’t allow kids to snack while watching TV. Allowing children (and adults) to eat with the TV on will usually lead to more calorie consumption.
Have children and adults tell one good thing or one funny thing about their day at the dinner table. Developing habits of talking about what is happening in their day helps to bring families closer. Don’t use mealtime to argue or nag.
For your picky vegetable eaters, offer vegetables and fruits as part of the meals. The reluctant vegetable eater who eats fruit will get some nutritional benefits. But keep offering the vegetables. Encourage kids to touch or even lick a new food to start.
Avoid being part of the “clean plate” club. Respect their appetites and allow them to stop when they are full. Many young children will eat their biggest meal at breakfast or lunch. If that is the case, focus on offering varieties of foods at those meals. Often dinner is their lightest meal.
Great Eating Tips for Busy Families is a blog series written by Dr. Christine Wood, a practicing pediatrician and author of How to Get Kids to Eat Great and Love It! For more information, please visit www.kidseatgreat.com. For additional posts in the series, please click here.