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4 Tips for Helping Kids Develop Healthy Eating Habits

Getting your kids to eat healthily is a dilemma most parents face at some point. The simplest solution is just to make wholesome food the norm, and the good news is that this doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need is a little willpower and the ability to say no to cute faces.

Here are four easy tips for making healthy eating doable.

1. Don’t keep junk food in the house.

It’s easier said than done, but if you really stick to this one tip, most of your work is done. They can’t eat cookies or chips if they’re not even an option. If it’s possible, leave your kids behind when you go grocery shopping. That way you don’t have to deal with begging and/or crying. Make a list beforehand and don’t deviate from it. Stay away from the snack food aisle and focus on healthy snacks instead, such as nuts, easily eaten fruits like apples or clementines, cheese, whole grain crackers with peanut butter, etc. Save the junk food for special occasions, like holidays or when you’re out and about and have no other option.

And don’t forget about beverages! A lot of parents don’t realize how much sugar is in their kids’ favorite drinks, even “natural” fruit juices. Kids don’t need juice for adequate vitamin C intake, especially when they can get it easily from many other sources. Soda has zero nutritional value and ten teaspoons of sugar in just one can, so it’s best to dump the soda habit entirely if you can.

2. Forget the “clean plate” rule.

One of the healthiest habits you can teach your kids is to eat when they feel hungry, and to stop when they feel full. If they don’t finish their dinner, don’t pressure them to do so, even if you think there’s no way they’ve eaten enough. If you push them to eat the amount you think they need, eventually their bodies get accustomed to consuming that much, and you can see how that’s a problem. Our society’s idea of a child’s portion size is quite excessive. When children are allowed to stop eating when they feel like they’ve had enough, they learn to recognize the feeling of fullness and therefore are less likely to develop overeating habits in the future.

3. Look into healthy supplements.

Give them a variety of foods from the time they’re babies to help them develop the taste for new things, but it’s not too late even if they’re older. Supplements are especially helpful if you struggle with a picky eater, as many parents do. The great thing about whole food supplements, in particular, is that they contain the phytochemicals found in whole food, which means they provide the same nutrition that the actual whole food would. As parents, you’re well aware that many kids complain about eating fruits and vegetables. So for young children, it’s easy to incorporate these fruit and veggie supplements into their diet. Simply open the capsules and sprinkle them on their food. If they still protest about the flavor, disguise it in some pasta sauce or stir it up in their milk.

4. Limit screen time.

Staring at a TV screen or computer monitor promotes mindless snacking. Not only that, but prolonged screen time also gets in the way of imagination and creative thinking. Kids are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves when given the chance. Studies have shown that kids who spend less time in front of screens also have a lower body fat percentage. So the next time your kid complains about being bored, instead of turning on the TV, inform them that it’s not your job to entertain them and that they need to find something to do. You’ll be amazed to see what they come up with.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.
Tim Esterdahl

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The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) has done extensive research on the long-term effects of childhood hunger. Children are our main demographic of clients, so we work tirelessly to get their families the resources that they need to lead healthy and productive lives for generations to come. When you assist IFCS' mission to alleviate hunger, your support has a ripple effect that affects the future of our community. Take a moment to make an impact - #onecanfeed
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We truly appreciate your support! Through the kindness of the community and generous donations to the Ready Set School! program, IFCS was able to assist 552 students with school supplies, clothing, and backpacks as well as supplies for 300+ students.
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