Tips to get kids to eat healthy
BATON ROUGE - Pediatrician Dr. Mindy Calandro visited News 2 at 4 this afternoon to provide some advice on the often troublesome task of getting kids to eat healthy.
The doctor said the real challenge here is to make healthy choices more appealing than the junk food we want them to avoid. She says children develop a natural preference for foods they enjoy the most so exposing them early and often to quality fruits and vegetables can make a big difference in how readily they will reach for the good stuff versus the sugary alternatives.
Realistically, Dr. Calandro is aware of how difficult it is to make an eight-year-old choose an apple over a treat as sweet as a cookie, but she says there are quite a few tricks you can use to give your little ones a push in the right direction. Her tips to promote healthy childhood eating are as follows:
- Have regular family meals. Knowing dinner is served at approximately the same time every night and that the entire family will be sitting down together is comforting and enhances appetite. Breakfast is another great time for a family meal, especially since kids who eat breakfast tend to do better in school.
- Cook more meals at home. Eating home cooked meals is healthier for the whole family and sets a great example for kids about the importance of food. Restaurant meals tend to have more fat, sugar, and salt. Save dining out for special occasions.
- Get kids involved. Children enjoy helping adults to shop for groceries, selecting what goes in their lunch box and preparing dinner. It's also a chance for you to teach them about the nutritional values of different foods and to give older kids a lesson in deciphering food labels.
- Make a variety of healthy snacks available instead of empty calorie snacks. Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain snacks and healthy beverages, such as water, milk and pure fruit juice, around and easily accessible so kids. Increasing the availability of these items encourages kids to reach for them first instead of items that are more unhealthy.
- Limit portion sizes. Don't insist your child cleans the plate. Avoid using food as a reward or a bribe.
If you're staring at the above information in despair because your child is a picky eater, Dr. Calandro urges you not to despair. She says picky eaters are often simply going through a normal developmental stage in which exerting control over their environment and expressing concern about trusting the unfamiliar. She has several great tips in the attached video for sneaking healthy foods into kids' diets.
The doctor says many finicky eaters also prefer a plate with separate compartments that do not allow the different types of food to touch one another. She draws a parallel between the way advertising takes numerous repetitions to convince adult consumers to buy a product and the way it takes most children 8-10 presentations of a new food before they feel familiar enough to openly accept it.
Finally, the pediatrician said parents should always consider themselves key to the mission of healthy lifestyles for their children in the future. She reminds parents to remember that role models are incredibly important to children and setting a good example is vital to impressionable little people. Dr. Calandro points out that asking your child to eat fruit and vegetables while you gorge on potato chips and soda is no good.