7 Practical Ways to Help Your Child Eat Healthier

With all the back to school hustle and bustle, eating healthy can sometimes take a backseat to convenience.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of children and teens were overweight or obese in 2012. Establishing healthy eating habits early can reduce your child’s likelihood of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea.

Brenda Hoops, CNP, with ProMedica Physicians, said that eating habits also play a role in the classroom. “What children eat is important because food provides the energy needed to make it through the school days,” she said. “Poor eating habits can affect a child’s mood and ability to concentrate.”

Healthier Lunches And Snacks
A few years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative helped pave the way for an increase in healthy meal options in schools. Hoops explained that breakfast and lunch menus now have less fat and salt and more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Foods are served in the right size portion so children learn proper portion sizes.

For children who bring their lunch to school, Hoops recommended that parents use MyPlate as a guide when packing their lunch. Half of their plate should be fruits and vegetables. The other half whole grains and lean proteins. Ideal beverage options include low-fat dairy and water. A freezer pack can keep items that may spoil cool, while a thermos is ideal for foods that need to stay warm.

Once classes end, a healthy snack can hold kids over until dinner. Some options include low-fat yogurt, seasonal fruit, celery and peanut butter, string cheese, popcorn, trail mix, granola, and hummus and veggies. Avoid processed foods that are high in fat and sugar such as cookies and chips.

Tips For Healthy Eating
Hoops offers the following seven ideas to help you make healthy eating a part of your child’s life:

  1. Start at a young age trying a variety of foods. Kids may have to try things up to 10 times before deciding if they like it. If they are used to eating fruits and vegetables, they will continue to do so as they grow up.
  2. Model healthy eating. Kids often follow in the footsteps of their parents. Show them how easy and tasty it is to eat healthy. Don’t skip meals, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and limit sweets.
  3. Involve your children with grocery shopping and meal planning. Sit down and make a shopping list with your kids, then take them to the grocery store with you. Allow children to have some input in what they eat by providing a variety of healthy items to choose from.
  4. Plan meals for the week. Pack meals in advance so you can grab and go. When you plan ahead, you are more likely to avoid unhealthy fast food options.
  5. Stock up on healthy snacks. Keep healthy foods handy so your kids aren’t tempted to snack on junk food.
  6. Introduce and reintroduce new foods. Kids’ tastes change as they age. Something they may not have liked when they were younger may start to taste good to them.
  7. Begin each day with a good breakfast. Breakfast gets a kid’s day started, stabilizes their energy and helps them have clear thoughts. When they skip breakfast, they’re not focused, their blood sugar drops and if they’re overly hungry by lunch time, they may overeat. (Here are some healthy breakfast ideas.)

When parents partner with their children to eat healthy, they can instill habits that support a lifetime of good health.