It is important to establish healthy eating habits at a very young age. By establishing good eating habits in young children, we avoid eating behaviors that may lead to obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Here is a list of some of the basics of healthy eating:
- Eat together as a family as often as possible. Parents can model correct eating behaviors. In addition, the family enjoys time together while parents listen to their children.
- All meals and snacks should be offered at the table or in a high chair. Your child should NOT be allowed to eat while playing or wandering around the house. If they “graze” on snacks or meals all day long, then they are not as hungry at meal times. Most children need 4-6 regularly scheduled meals each day. Typically, this includes three meals plus two snack times.
- Allow a reasonable time for your child to eat, usually 10-20 minutes. If your child loses interest in eating, put the child down from the table and offer no food until the next scheduled meal.
- Offer appropriate portion sizes (approximately one tablespoon of each food eaten per year of age). Offer the age-appropriate size and let the child decide how much to eat. Children can learn to overeat by forcing them to clean their plate. Eating in moderation is important.
- Limit the intake of juice or other sugar drinks to 4 ounces a day. Juice and other sugar drinks are “empty calories.”
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Foods for growing children should contain carbohydrates for energy, include fat for brain and nerve growth, and contain protein for muscle development. More than 50% of the diet should be complex carbohydrates with high fiber. No more than 10% of the diet should be simple sugars.