Tips for helping your child develop healthy eating habits: (American Psychological Association)
- Start early. If you help your child establish good eating, exercising and sleeping habits early in life, you won't have to break bad habits later on. Expose your child to a variety of flavors and pair those new sensations with positive contexts and foods that your child already likes. Research suggests that familiarization can not only help children come to accept healthy food but actually prefer it.
- Ensure that most foods in your home are healthy. You don't have to swear off desserts, however. Low-fat frozen yogurt and fruit are a good alternative to ice cream and sprinkles, for instance.
- Make healthy eating easy. Children generally choose foods that are familiar, easily available and ready to be eaten. Encourage your child or teen to eat more fruits and vegetables by making them just as convenient as sugary snacks. You could place baby carrots in small bags on an easily accessible shelf in the refrigerator, for example.
- Model healthy eating. Children who see their parents or caregivers buying, cooking and eating healthy foods are more apt to eat healthy foods themselves. Avoid using food as a reward for good behavior. Making unhealthy food a reward for good deeds promotes the idea that healthy food isn't as appealing as junk food or something to look forward to. Healthy eating doesn’t need to be a trick. Instead, teach your children to look at healthy foods as tasty and desirable.
- Have meals as a family. Family meals are not only a good opportunity to share in your children’s lives. They are also the perfect venue to talk about healthy eating habits and engage your children in conversations about what a healthy meal looks and tastes like. Limit eating out. Eating out is not only expensive, but can also be unhealthy. Not knowing what goes into the food you're eating can make it difficult to help your child choose something that is nutritious and appropriately sized.