Kids & Parenting

Healthy eating habits for kids

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Establishing healthy eating habits early on will decrease your child's chances of becoming an obese adult
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Learn how to help develop and maintain healthy eating habits for kids

Growing up in my household, there were three important rules: keep your room clean, don't hit your sisters and finish your veggies. Although I despised spinach, squash and zucchini as a child, these foods are now a staple in my refrigerator crisper.

As an adult, I've learned to love eating healthy foods because I was introduced to them early. In the past two decades, studies have found that childhood obesity has more than tripled. Developing healthy eating habits for kids in your home is the first step you can take in preventing childhood obesity, as well as keeping your child from becoming an obese adult.

Obesity in adults
 currently the leading preventable cause of death for Americans. If you're wondering what the difference between obesity and overweight is, calculate your child's body mass index (BMI). If your child has a BMI in excess of 25, he or she is considered to be overweight. If your child has a BMI in excess of 30, he or she is considered to be obese.

Whether you're a first time parent like myself or you're looking to turn around the bad food habits of your older kids, these tips will help you establish healthy eating habits for kids of all ages.

- Start early! (but not too early)

Believe it or not, your first step in establishing healthy eating habits for kids starts in infancy. Recent pediatric research suggests that starting infants on solids too soon can make your child more likely to become obese later in life. Many doctors suggest delaying the introduction of solids until they are at least 6 months of age. Also, introduce vegetables first and postpone introducing sweet fruits such as apples, pears and bananas until your infant has gotten used to eating their vegetables.

- Get in on the act.

If you're attempting to correct the bad eating habits your older children already have, it's important to clear the house of all unhealthy foods. This is a case where it's important to lead by example. If your kids are supposed to eat healthy, then you should too. By eliminating the unhealthy foods in your house, you can remove temptations and keep track of what your kids are eating. Also, adding a daily children's vitamin supplement to your child's diet can help ensure that they're getting the essential vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy.

- What's on the menu?

Before your next trip to the grocery store, create a weekly menu and buy the items you'll need in order to fulfill your menu. By drawing up this menu, you can prevent indecisive week nights and be sure that every meal contains all the important food groups your child needs to thrive.

- Fast food stops here.

Many American families depend on unhealthy fast food chains to supply them with breakfast, lunch and dinner several times a week. By cooking more meals at home, you can keep track of exactly how many calories your child is eating and how many servings of fruits and vegetables they are getting.

- Pack a lunch.

Although many schools are attempting to spruce up their lunch menus, many are still lacking lower fat, nutritious options. By packing your child's lunch, you can prevent them from consuming unhealthy school lunch foods. Try making a turkey breast sandwich on whole wheat with low fat cheese, tomatoes and romaine lettuce. Instead of potato chips, pack raw carrots and celery with peanut butter and raisins. Add pecans, almonds and walnuts, dried fruit and whole grain crackers for an energy-laden "dessert."

- Leave the "Clean Plate Club".

Chances are, when you were a child, you were encouraged to finish everything on your plate so that you could be the president of the "Clean Plate Club". Even if you were already stuffed to the gills, you'd finish those final few bites just to satisfy your parents. Unfortunately, all we were doing was stretching our stomachs and making it necessary for us to eat more just to feel full and satisfied. Tell your child to finish their veggies first, then allow them to eat as much of their starch and meat as they want. When they say, "I'm full", allow them to leave the table.

If you maintain a healthy diet in your household, your child has a better chance of not developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other obesity related illnesses. In the long run, healthy eating habits for kids are important to establish early to ensure that you're giving your child the best start possible.

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