Monday, March 1, 2010

Promoting Healthy Eating in Children

As I sit here eating a late night treat I thought I would write about promoting healthy eating in your children. Oxymoron? Most definitely, but my kids don't know where I stash the girl scout cookies! :)

All too often friends of mine complain about what their kids eat, how picky they are, and a wide variety of other complaints centered around their children eating. One question always pops in my head. . .and exactly where did your kids get the horrible things they are eating? You see where I am going with this post.

Friends, family, and even strangers in restaurants comment on how well my children eat. Everyday my children get varying servings of lean proteins, vegetables, fruit, low fat dairy, and low carb snacks. Why do my kids eat the stuff that other kids their age turn their nose up at? One answer, it is the only option they have. I do not buy processed snacks, frozen dinners, fried quick meals, or anything else that congeals when cold. My children truly know nothing else other than healthy eating. It is normal to them, they know nothing else. But guess what? They don't complain about it either. My kids have all eaten salad starting at age 2, fresh fruit from the time they could chew, and dinner is always made fresh. Of course there is a special night here and there when we order pizza or go to our favorite Mexican restaurant. These are special occasions though and my kids know not to expect them. No, I am not a treat or sweets warden. I am a sucker for chocolate and my dear husband almost always has some stash in the house for me. I share with my kids but they do not expect it everyday. Desert is not a staple in our house. When planning a meal I do not include desert simply because of a personal decision my husband and I have made to raise a healthy family.

So how do you promote healthy eating habits in your own family?
1. First and foremost, you are the example your kids will follow. Make healthy food choices. No more processed junk or fried yuck in the house. My daughter always wants to eat what is in my hand, no matter what it is. So naturally she has grown up eating healthy because she sees and eats what I eat. This has also proved to be an added incentive for my own healthy eating. I know she is going to want what I have, so I have to eat healthy if I want her to eat healthy.

2. Make healthy snacks available to your children. Keep the healthy stuff at their eye level with easy access. Veggies should be placed in a low drawer in the refrigerator. Keep a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. My kids are always climbing on the kitchen counter to get a piece of fruit. Keep healthy snacks in the pantry at their eye level.

3. Think about your grocery purchases. Do you really need that bag of potato chips? Is there a better alternative to chicken strips and cheez-its? Of course there is. Save money and just don't buy them. You may hear a complaint or two for a couple of weeks. After that though, they will get used to the healthier alternatives.

4. Plan your meals. Stopping rushing around at night trying to scrounge something decent to eat. This leads to foods of convenience and they are generally not the healthiest choice for your family. Plan 1 or 2 weeks at a time, maybe even a month at a time. Use your crock pot as much as possible, they are convenient and will save you a ton of time.

5. Set limits. When your children ask for a snack give them 2 healthy choices and do not waver in your decision. Also, when you are out to eat look over the childrens menu and let your child decide from the 2 most healthy options.

As a parent it is your responsibility to your children to teach them healthy eating habits. No your kid isn't just big boned. No she isn't going to hit a growth spurt big enough to allow her to grow into the pudge around her belly. "He has always been big" can no longer be an excuse for overweight children. Get them moving, exercising, and eating right all day everyday. Don't send your children out into this world with self-confidence issues centered around their weight, do not ill equip them to deal with the fat and sugar laden food that will bombard their senses when they begin to live on their own. Just as you educate them about the 3 R's also teach them about food choices, portion control, and self control. You owe it to them.

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