How to Build Healthy Eating Habits in Kids

When it comes to healthy eating and food preferences, school-age children can fall anywhere in a wide-ranging spectrum. Some kids may still be the picky eaters they were when they were preschoolers while others may have matured to become adventuresome gourmands who are ready, willing, and able to try new foods and dishes. But no matter what kind of healthy eating habits your child has developed, you can help shape his preferences and attitudes toward nutritious food by guiding him toward healthy eating habits. Here's how:


Go Food Shopping With Kids to Teach Them Healthy Eating Choices

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To show your child healthy eating choices, fill your cart with fresh produce and cut down on processed foods. Make a game out of picking different colors of fruits and vegetables. Think about dishes you can make in the coming week, such as a stir-fry (green broccoli, yellow and red peppers, orange carrots, and so on).


Let Your Kids Help You Cook

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Whatever age your children are, they can help out in the kitchen. Your kindergartner may not be able to chop vegetables, but he can certainly tear up lettuce for a salad or put bread in a basket. Your 9 or 10-year-old can stir sauces or measure out ingredients. You’ll be glad you encouraged culinary habits early when your grade-schooler grows into a teen who can skillfully whip up a delicious dinner for the whole family.


Don't Stress About the Amount of Food They Eat

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He may polish off everything on his plate one day and then eat two peas and declare that he’s done the next. This is perfectly normal behavior for a growing grade-schooler. Make sure you don’t make him feel bad for not finishing everything on his plate. And head off problems at the pass by offering smaller portions (you can always give him seconds if he finishes).


Encourage Smart Snacking

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Even if your child is served a favorite dish for dinner, he may not eat it if he’s snacked too close to mealtime and isn’t hungry. Don’t let him snack at least an hour before dinner, and if he does have something, make it as healthy and light as possible—say, baby carrots with hummus or apple slices.


Avoid the Allure of Bribes

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It can certainly be tempting to say no TV, dessert, or whatever else she wants unless she eats her dinner. But this can create an uneasy relationship with food in your child. Instead of making her feel pressured into eating when she doesn’t feel like it, give her choices that are more likely to go down easy, such as bite-sized portions of cheesy broccoli or a fruit smoothie—healthy choices that she'll want to eat.


Don't Ban Junk Food

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This doesn’t mean allowing your grade-schooler to eat a candy bar a day. Limiting processed food that’s high in sugar and calories is a good idea. But if you try to forbid so much as a lollipop in your home, your child is more likely to scarf up all the sugar he can find at a friend’s house. A better way to handle sugary snacks is to let him have a piece of candy or chocolate once in a while, and if he clamors for something sweet, try to steer him toward healthy snacks such as nuts with raisins the rest of the time.


Set a Good Example

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If you ban your child from drinking soda and then guzzle down a Diet Coke over dinner, it sends a mixed message. Examine your own attitude toward food Do you try healthy recipes or do you eat fatty foods and then express remorse and worry about your own weight?

Parents who are willing to find new ways to get creative with healthy choices, will have children who are more likely to follow in your footsteps.

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