Devrie Pettit is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist who is passionate about real and practical healthy eating for the whole family. As a mother of four and co-founder of purefitfood.com, Devrie has these tips for parents looking to improve their family's eating in 2016:
1. Set the tone: The best thing you can do is be an example. Children will pick up on that. Expose your child to a variety of healthy foods and an array of cuisines. If you are eating healthy food, they will eventually want to try. Your home is the only place that you have absolute control over. Make sure that it remains a healthy environment. There will be times when more junk enters your home and that is okay. But, never let it become the standard.
2. Teach them: Communicate the difference between real food and fake food. Real food comes from the earth. Fake food is made in labs and factories. I reiterate to my children that real food helps to grow and nourish their body so that they can concentrate in school and excel in their activities.
It is inevitable that they will encounter fake food through their life. Let them discover for themselves how they feel when they consume each type. Some food may taste good, but make them feel sick. They will learn on their own how each make them feel. It is important to avoid using works like “good” and “bad”. You want your child to develop a healthy relationship with food and not sneak certain foods.
3. Let them help: Take them to the store (one at a time of course) and let them pick out a new produce item. Let them help in the kitchen. The more exposure your kid has to food, the more they will be inclined to try it.
4. Be firm without pressure: Pick one meal to be non-negotiable. In our home I am more laid-back when it comes to breakfast and lunch. Those meals are still nutritious. However, I am fine changing it up a bit from kid to kid or varying what I made for myself. Dinner time is what it is. If my kids are not particularity happy with what I’ve made they have to eat at least the number of bites that corresponds to their age. Most of the time they realize that they do like it and will eat more.
If your child will only eat chicken nuggets, stop feeding them chicken nuggets. You are the parent. It is your responsibility to feed your child. It is their responsibility to eat.
Never pressure your child into eating or not eating something. This can get tricky when you have a child with special needs. However, I do believe every healthy child should be exposed to all food groups. When a type of food becomes a concern, then seek medical attention and professional supervision.
5. Limit excessive snacking: When kids are fed too many snacks they are not hungry to eat a good meal. Limit purchasing crackers, fruit snacks, and granola bars. Offer your child vegetables and fruit to snack on first. Don’t give your child juice and limit the amount of milk he or she drinks. The child who is given sippy cup after sippy cup of milk or juice will never eat a solid meal.
6. Treat treats as treats: The American Heart Association states that children should consume less than 3 teaspoons (12 grams) of added sugar per day. Between the squeeze yogurt, fruit snacks, and graham crackers – sugar really adds up. Then there is the cupcake at the birthday party or the granola bar after soccer.
Our society is more educated on healthy eating than ever before. This is good. But, often times the parents are on a clean eating path and fail to bring their children along. Parents often skip out on treats and children are fed too many. When you keep your home a healthy environment it is perfectly OK to go out for treats. This can help the whole family to eat better because it is a less common occurrence. Children should see their parents, especially their mother’s enjoying treats with them. This can help demystify sugar and help them view desserts as something special that they can choose to consume without feelings of guilt later in life.
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