Cook Together. Eat Together. Talk Together.
Childhood obesity is an epidemic in the United States, affecting over 30% children and a major contributor to chronic disease of childhood. So how did this all begin? It begins at a tender age when children consume energy-dense foods high in fats and sugars and low in healthy micronutrients including vitamins and minerals. Parents have a unique opportunity to positively influence the children in their care by making healthy and nutritious life choices.
Helping children develop healthy eating habits that promote wellness can be challenging. However, parents and families can be positive role models by following a few simple steps.
Lead by Example
You are their biggest role model. Practice what you preach. If you eat well, they will too. Limit consumption of sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages. Limit eating out at restaurants especially fast food restaurants. It's a trap!
Start at a Young Age
Become familiar with basic nutrition and food groups. Introduce your baby to various food options. Encourage your child to try new foods. Balance the nutrients of food groups.
Grains-Whole grains are the best!
Vegetables-Eat a variety. Vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Fruits- Fruits are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Therefore, choose a fresh colorful arrangement.
Milk or cheese- Rich in calcium and protein.
Meat and beans- Includes nuts and seeds (beware of food allergies).
Be Physically Active
Limit television and screen time and enjoy the beauty nature has to offer. Parents, your attitudes make a big difference. Playing outdoors, bike riding, hiking or even going out for a walk are great experiences for your little one. Spend time interacting, reading books and playtime rather than watching television, playing computer games and snacking on unhealthy foods.
Eating as a family sends a positive message about healthy food choices. Children will see and do. Basically they will see parents eating healthy foods and are more inclined to try it too. Eat fruits and veggies and your child will too! Introduce as many fresh choices as possible. Eat with moderation- eating when hungry and limiting snacks. Introduce appropriate portion sizes based on your child's age. Limit fats, oils and sugars. Develop variety in food preferences. Sharing family meals gives children a consistent message.
Talk about fun and happy things. Talk to children about their food choices before, during and after their meals. Talking together promote their thinking, cognitive and early literacy skills. The kitchen is your new classroom. Ask questions and make comments to promote thinking. Learn math skills at an early age with measurements, talk about colors, taste, smells, flavors and textures. What an amazing engaging curriculum!