10 Steps Toward Healthier Eating Habits for Kids

Kids Eating Healthy

Childhood obesity and diabetes are on the rise, along with allergies, asthma and a host of learning and behavior problems. It is important to consider the role that dietary habits can play in health, learning and behavior outcomes for kids.

Improving eating habits and eating behavior helps to ensure that children are functioning at optimal levels at home, at school, and in social situations. Parents and professionals can help kids to develop healthy eating habits as part of an overall healthy living program.

It is no secret that getting kids to eat healthier can be a daunting task for parents. Taking gradual steps while keeping ‘eyes on the prize’ can go a long way to encourage families to embrace and practice healthier eating habits. Here are 10 steps that can help with developing healthier eating habits for kids:

  1. Recognize the importance of healthy eating. Begin to view healthy eating as an important part of the ‘well-being puzzle’.
  2. Take baby steps, making gradual changes that will work for the family. Begin by making simple changes with planning, shopping and eating routines. Continue to adjust and refine the plan as necessary toward desired healthy eating goals.
  3. Children respond to adults. Set a good example, eating a variety of healthy foods every day. Establish some basic family eating schedules and routines, working to keep regular meal and snack times during the day.
  4. Read product food labels carefully. Recognize marketing strategies designed to get consumers to buy products. Become familiar with ingredients in foods and try to choose healthier alternatives.
  5. Eat more whole foods (foods in their natural states), and less processed foods. Strive to eat foods free of artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, excess sugar, and other unwanted additives.
  6. Spend a little extra time making simple, healthy meal plans before going to the grocery store and preparing meals to avoid making last minute, less healthy choices.
  7. Teach children about the importance of healthy eating. Involve them in shopping and preparing foods. Visit a vegetable farm. Plant foods in a garden or in planter boxes.
  8. Redefine snacks and treats. Teach children that there are healthy snacks and ‘sometimes treats’ and that healthy snacks are needed for a healthy body. Try to avoid using food as a reward and encourage healthy snacks.
  9.  Organize the kitchen so that healthy snack choices are readily available for children. Keep fresh fruits and vegetables washed, cut, and packaged so they are easily accessible. Provide quick and healthy protein and complex carbohydrate option snacks for energy and to sustain children between meals.
  10. Keep the family focus on working toward healthier eating habits, and practice moderation when eating ‘low nutrition’ treats.

Healthy eating is an important part of healthy living goals and is well worth the time and effort put forth. When addressing healthy eating goals, it is important to be watchful for food sensitivities. Keeping a simple food journal can be a very helpful way to identify any patterns with possible problem foods. Always be sure to check with a health care practitioner when there are specific nutritional concerns for kids.

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