Is Your Family Eating Right?

Family DinnerFor some mothers, making sure your children eat nutritious meals is a daily battle. One child may prefer only fried chicken, while another may be a bit more adventurous, but won’t touch any fruits or vegetables. Sometimes you may feel that it would be easier to let them eat whatever they want, just to avoid all the stress and hassle.

The good news is despite the fact your children are constantly besieged by ads promoting fast foods, junk foods, sweets and carbonated drinks, you have a greater influence on their eating habits than the media does.

Numerous studies have confirmed that parents do affect how their children feel about food. Here’s a few advice you can follow to lead your children in the right direction.

Lead by example

Research has found that when parents eat more fruits and vegetables, their children will follow suit. The opposite is also true – if parents don’t eat a lot of fresh produce, but they pressure their children to eat it, the children are less likely to comply. The conclusion: healthy eating rubs of on your children, so you don’t have to be a food bully.

Keep healthy food in sight

Keep less-than-healthy foods out of reach on high cabinets . Arrange your home so that high-calorie foods cannot be seen and healthier foods are more visible. This health-based food storage approach lets your cupboard enforce the house food rules for you, helping to make snack time less of a problem.

Offer options

Set limits, but give your children a choice. Offer a few portion-controlled snacks (light popcorn, biscuits or crackers and ice cream for example). Your children get to pick one, but you control the selection.

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Keep on trying

Did you know that children don’t like certain foods until they’re exposed to them at least 10 times? Offer them a nibble of yours, or prepare a small side dish for tasting and don’t give up if their first response in NO.

Eat at home

Children who have home-cooked meals consume more fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber, vitamins and minerals and less fat. A recent study also found that family meals are associated with lower risks of smoking, poor grades and depression among kids.

Avoid food mistakes

Give your children healthy attitudes toward food and they’ll carry over their good eating habits into adulthood.

Keep an eye on portion size

Another major source of stress for parents is the struggle over just how much food your kids should be eating, whether you’re trying to get a selective eater to take a bite of anything green or stop a child with a sweet tooth who wants seconds of dessert. Making the effort to know the right portion sizes for your children will put a lot of things into perspective. Check with a nutritionist or your family doctor.

Avoid the clean-your-plate rule

Forcing kids to eat more than what feels comfortable to them or to eat when they simply are not hungry diminishes their ability to recognize internal signals of hunger and fullness. Without that trigger, they could start to overeat and gain weight.

Steer clear of diets

Dieting actually promotes poor eating habits in children. One study found that pre-adolescent boys and girls who dieted were more likely to binge eat. In addition, children on diets gained, rather than lost, weight over a three year period. If your child is overweight, offer healthy choices in controlled portions and limit sodas and other soft drinks.

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Set a healthy example

Eating meals together isn’t just a great way to catch up on your family’s day and share one another’s company. Nutritionists note that the dining table is also where we can model the healthy eating habits we want our kids to learn. That’s food for thought, indeed.

Don’t offer food as reward or comfort

Offering a chocolate cake after your child had a fall may feel good, but it can set a pattern of emotional eating that persists into adulthood. Instead of feeding a child’s disappointment, fear, pain or success, offer a hug or sing him a song, tell your child how proud you are, or plan something fun.

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