Unlike a diet, which may help you lose weight for a time but do a notoriously poor job at helping you keep extra weight off, healthy eating habits can stay with you for a lifetime.
If your kids have a lot of unhealthy eating habits, work to replace them with these healthy tips.
Examples of healthy eating habits include:
- Eating breakfast every day. (Skipping meals, especially breakfast, is a bad habit.)
- Turning off the TV and other distractions during meals and while snacking. (If the TV is on, you are more likely to eat too fast without noticing when you are full, which can lead to overeating.)
- Eating meals as a family.
- Starting with small portions and getting seconds if you are still hungry, allowing older kids to serve themselves
- Limiting fast-food meals. (These fast-food meals likely won't be as nutritious and will very likely have many more calories than a meal you eat at home.)
- Not using food as a reward
- Putting a variety of foods on your plate, including different colored vegetables
- Learning to stop eating when you are full, even if you haven't cleaned your plate
Other healthy habits include limiting total screen time to no more than one to two hours each day; not letting kids have a TV in their bedroom; and getting at least one hour of physical activity each day.
Healthy Eating Fundamentals
Healthy eating shouldn't be a real mystery for parents. It includes a DASH-type diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free milk and other dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and seeds, and lower in sweets and added sugars, fats and red meats.
Also, consider having your kids:
- Eat five fruits and vegetables each day
- Limit or avoid sugar-sweetened drinks
- Drink water
- Avoid trans fats (Check the nutrition facts label.)
- Limit calories from saturated fats to 8% to 10% of daily calories
- Eat a lot high-fiber foods
- Limit sodium and avoid foods high in salt
- Drink fat-free unflavored milk
- Learn about appropriate portion sizes, which will be partly based on the estimated number of calories they need each day, based on their age, gender and how active they are
- Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg each day
Just as important to teaching your kids healthy eating habits, is making sure you aren't contributing to your child's bad habits. If you know your child is going to drink soda or eat chips and cookies in the house, then don't buy those products as often.
Parents should also be good role models by following these healthy eating habits themselves. Keep in mind that these are good habits for everyone in the family - and not just for a child who is overweight.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents: Summary Report. Pediatrics. Volume 128, Supplement 6, December 2011.
United States Department of Agriculture. Develop Healthy Eating Habits. www.choosemyplate.gov/preschoolers/HealthyHabits/index.html Accessed November 2011.