Winning your children over to healthy eating habits is easy said than done. It takes perseverance. Yet, as children begin to get a consistent message about healthy eating, their awareness about its importance grows.
"You can win children over to healthier eating by educating them about healthy eating and getting them involved in the process," says Kristin Gustashaw, MS, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "They often begin to see the value of making healthy food decisions, as they see why you make the choices that you make."
Children can be part of healthy choices at the supermarket and in the kitchen. They can be included when preparing lunches the night before school.
Off to a Good Start
You can start by helping children understand the importance of getting a healthy start to the day. The most important meal for everyone is breakfast, but especially a child in school.
"Breakfast gives children the first fuel of the morning," says Gustashaw. "This is what builds their rapidly growing bodies and nourishes their brains for their studies. Every breakfast has to offer long-lasting quality fuel, like protein and complex carbohydrates, which will help carry children through to lunch." Therefore, Gustashaw suggests that every breakfast include protein and whole grains.
- Wholegrain cereal with milk (or soy) and a piece of fruit (the fruit can be taken with them to school for a midmorning snack)
- Oatmeal with milk or small low fat yogurt
- Wholegrain toaster waffles with yogurt or nut butter and a piece of fruit
Some ideas for "to go" breakfasts
- Breakfast bar that has at least seven grams of protein with a box of milk or small yogurt*
- Peanut butter or cheese* sandwich with dried fruit snacks
- Small yogurt* with half of a cup of homemade trail mix
- All dairy products should be low fat; milk should be 2 percent or less.
You can use the breakfast meal as an opportunity to educate your children about healthy eating and the importance of getting quality fuel to start the day.
Education Starts at Home
Talk with your child about healthy foods and healthy choices. "When you go grocery shopping let them know why you're making the choices that you're making," says Gustashaw. "Teach them about the importance of maintaining their health, strength and stamina. Educate them about how important it is that their brains and muscles work well for sports and education."
Commend them when they make good decisions. You also want to educate yourself about what makes them finish what they've been given. "You'll want to talk to kids about whether or not they're eating their lunches at school," says Gustashaw. "Ask what they liked about it and what they didn't like. You can then make some compromises based on their feedback."
Making Good Choices
You'll want to make good choices with what you have available in your house. This can help you feel comfortable about what you have to offer and you'll already be ahead of the game, beginning to feel as if you compromising less and less. For example, buy whole fruit preserves instead of jelly for toast and sandwiches; buy wholegrain breads, cereals and waffles; make your own snacks, like trail mix (a great opportunity to get the kids involved).
Teach your family about portion control, which is important for every meal, and can be important for after-school snacks, too. Buy half sandwich bags for portion control on chips, pretzels, trail mix and other more highly caloric snacks for lunches and after-school snacks.
For snack time you can make fruit and fresh cut vegetables available in pre-portioned servings. Single-serving snack drink boxes of milk or soy and yogurt are also good choices for portion-controlled lunch treats or after-school snacks.
It's all about educating and teaching by example. "This gives children a framework that they can take with them through life for making choices for healthy living," says Gustashaw.
More Information at Your Fingertips:
- For more information about nutritional services at Rush visit ourFood and Nutritional Services home page.
- Looking for information on other health topics? Visit our Health Information home page.
- Looking for a dietitian? Call (312) 942-DIET (3438)
- Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)
Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
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