How to Encourage Good Eating Habits In Children

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One of the most powerful ways to teach a child anything is to role model the  behavior you want the child to display. If you want your children to grow into adults who enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods– make sure they see you eating the foods you’d like them to enjoy. If healthy eating is a way of life in your home, it’s likely they will grow up emulating your healthy habits. If children grow up experiencing regular meal times, there’s a good chance they will continue the pattern. Childhood impulses to imitate is strong. The best move you can make to start your child off on the right dietary foot is to be a positive role model when it comes to for choices and meal times. When your youngster asks to taste what you’re eating, make sure your plate is always filled with healthy selections.

If you’re asking your child to eat vegetables and fish while you graze on potato chips and soda, your actions will override your good intentions. Remember, parenting by example will help you set boundaries and make future follow through easier. Something as simple as setting a positive food example can be your best course of action. Children often grow up emulating their environment.

Serving Sizes

How many servings of vegetables do toddlers need? Although, kids should be offered three to five servings of veggies a day- children under five, only need a tablespoon for each year of their age. Yes, it’s THAT easy! In other words, a two- year-old should ideally consume two tablespoons of vegetables, three to five times a day. If you are not the proud parent of a veggie lover, try a few of our fun, food fight activities.

How much a child needs to be full can really only be determined by the child. It is important early on to acknowledge and respect a child’s signs of hunger and satiety, so that the child can learn to trust these instincts and eat accordingly. This is why it is so crucial for parents to understand that their role is to provide a variety of foods at meal and snack times — and it is the child’s role to decide how much they will eat.

Sometimes parents’ expectations of what their children should eat are too great and possibly due to our own distorted vision of what a portion size is.

Parents should become familiar with child size portions. A helpful rule of thumb is 1 tbsp per year of age = 1 portion. Example: 1 tbsp of peas would be a serving for a one-year-old.

A Healthy Guideline – Sample Portions and Menu

Grains

• 1/2 – 1 slice of bread

• 1/2 – 3/4 cup cereal

• 1/2 – 1 small muffin

• 1/2 cup of rice or pasta

Vegetables & Fruit

• 1/2 – 1 medium vegetable or fruit

• 1/4 – 1/2 cup frozen, canned or fresh fruit or vegetables

• 1/2 – 1 cup of salad

• 1/4 – 1/2 cup of juice

Dairy

• 1-2 oz. of cheese

• 1/2 – 3/4 cup of yogurt

• 1/2 -1 cup of milk.

Meats & Alternates

• 1-2 oz. meat, fish or poultry

• 1 egg

• 1/4 – 1/2 cup beans

• 1/4 – 1/3 cup tofu

• 1-2 tbsp of nut butters

Sample Menu (A full day of meals for a 3-year-old)

Breakfast

1/2 cup cereal with 1/2 cup of milk

1/2 cup of juice

Mid Morning Snack

1/2 cup yogurt

1/4 cup of berries

Lunch

1/4 grilled cheese sandwich

2-3 carrot coins with dip

1/2 cup milk

Afternoon Snack

1/2 a piece of toast with 1 tbsp of peanut butter

1/2 cup milk or soy beverage

1/2 apple or banana

Dinner

1/2 cup noodles with 2 tbsp of pasta sauce

1/4 cup frozen peas

1/2 meatball

Dessert

1/2 cup yogurt

1/2 apple

Snack

1/2 cup milk

2 crackers

Remember to Respect Tiny Tummies and Tongues

Keep food servings small. Wondering how much to offer? Here’s a rule of thumb – or… rather, a rule of hand. A young child’s stomach is approximately the size of their fist. Dole out small portions at first and refill the plate when your child asks for more.

The less-is-more meal plan is not only more successful with picky eaters, it also has the added benefit of stabilizing blood-sugar levels, which, in-turn, minimizes those toddler mood swings.

Touch and texture round out the flavor senses too. Spicy foods taste “hot” and trigger pain fibers in the mouth, which makes most kids, not accept. Some children are very sensitive to certain textures of food which can often be more the reason they don’t like it rather than the taste.

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