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Childhood obesity is now the number one health concern among parents in the United States. It affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents. But eating healthy can be a challenge, especially if your child is a picky eater! It is important to create positive mealtime habits now so that your child can make healthier choices in the future.
There are many ways to help your child develop healthy eating habits:
Make it easy for your child to make healthy food and snack choices. Limit their availability to snacks that don’t have valuable nutrients, such as chips, candy, and fruit-flavored drinks. Keep fruits where they are easily accessible, and acknowledge your child when they make a healthy snack choice. If your child requests an unhealthy food, redirect them by offering a healthier choice.
Don’t use food as a reward. Many times parents try to persuade their children to eat dinner by offering dessert as a prize. This is confusing to children. The message is that the healthy foods are less appealing and that dessert is more important because it is used as a prize.
Include vegetables in every meal. There are ways to include vegetables into foods that most children like anyway.
Be mindful of the amount of food you serve at each meal. Remember that eating healthy doesn’t just refer to the type of foods you eat, but the amount, as well. Many people in this country do not know appropriate portion sizes. Understanding and changing to healthier portion sizes may take time for both children and adults to adjust.
Avoid food battles whenever you can. The best way to avoid battles is to engage your child in preparing and choosing food.
And of course, as always, the most important thing you can do for a finicky eater is to model healthy eating. When the whole family learns to make good food choices together, the result is an enduring lifestyle change that results in happier, healthier families. It may take time, but patience is key.