Updated: July 6, 2013 6:04AM
In the United States today, we are obsessed with dieting; yet, as a nation, we are getting larger each year. In fact, one in five children in the United States is considered overweight. Parents often feel helpless or confused about how to prevent eating problems. Thankfully, there are many ways parents can foster healthy attitudes about eating, nutrition, and exercise.
Ten Ways Parents Can Promote Healthy Eating and Exercise Habits
1. Eat Together. This is perhaps the most important way to foster healthy attitudes about food in your children. Create mealtimes that are happy and involve conversation and laughter as well as good nutrition. Keep mealtimes free of stressful nagging and criticism.
2. Be a Good Role Model. Take a good look at your own eating and exercise habits. Children learn best from example.
Eat Breakfast — Children who eat breakfast are more attentive and learn more efficiently in school.
Eat Your Vegetables and Fruits — Let your child see you eating and enjoying a variety of foods, including vegetables and fruits.
Eat Healthy Snacks — Keep healthy snacks in the house: fruits, low-fat yogurt, and pretzels.
Stay Active Each Day - Take the stairs instead of the elevator and plan walks with your child.
3. Offer Healthy Foods. Making healthy foods available to your child will help your child learn to like these foods.
Keep only foods in your house that you want your child to eat.
4. No Foods are Taboo. Do not make a big deal about “bad” foods. Allow children to eat what they want at birthday parties, school outings, and other special occasions.
They will learn that birthday cake, cookies, and pop are eaten on occasion and that these foods can fit into an overall healthy diet.
5. Let Children Decide How Much to Eat. Research has shown that children whose parents are less controlling of their food intake are better able to regulate food intake themselves.
Remember that a child is smaller than you and needs much smaller portions. A good rule is to serve children 1 to 6 years of age a tablespoon of food for each year of age.
6. Help Your Child Identify Hunger and Fullness. By letting your children decide when they want more and when they have had enough, you are teaching them to recognize the internal cues of hunger and fullness. These internal cues will help them regulate their food intake and weight for life.
7. Let Children Decide What to Eat. By having healthy foods in the house and offering a variety of foods at meal times, a parent has provided a healthy food environment that allows children to decide what to eat.
This is a wonderful way to eliminate tension and conflict that can arise when trying to force a child to eat and controlling what a child eats.
8. Avoid Using Food as a Bribe or Reward. Let food remain food — a source or nourishment and enjoyment. Instead of food rewards, give your child the gift of spending special one-on-one time with you or allow your child to choose a special activity as a reward.
9. Offer a Variety of Nutritious Foods at Regular Intervals. Have regular meals and snacks. Keep in mind that your children may need to eat more often than you do, since they often eat smaller amounts at a meal or snack and they are growing.
10. Practice Normal Eating. Normal eating promotes regular eating habits — typically three meals a day and snacks to satisfy hunger. It is regulated mostly by internal signals of hunger, appetite, and satiety.
Normal eating does NOT include overeating or undereating, dieting, or skipping meals. Normal eating enhances feelings of well-being and nurtures good health, energy, and healthy growth and development.