Even the smartest parents make mistakes when it comes to feeding their kids. You may limit candy and chips, but for healthier, leaner kids, make sure you’re not making these common mistakes:
- Too much fast food. While an occasional drive-thru run is fine, if your minivan is littered with empty fry boxes, it’s time to think like a Boy Scout and be prepared. Make your own “snack packs” by keeping bags of whole grain cereal or dried fruit in the car, along with nuts, granola bars and dried fruit for quick, healthy snacks.
- Too many sweet drinks. Calorie-laden beverages like soda, sports drinks or juice bring a lot of sugar and empty calories but little nutritional value. Offer water instead, and limit sweet drinks to once a day or a few times a week.
- Short-order cooking. Eating what you’ve made helps kids develop their palates and teaches them the basics of good nutrition, setting the groundwork for the future. Offer children a parent-directed choice, like, “We’re going to have a vegetable with dinner because vegetables are healthy and good for our bodies. Would you like carrots or green beans?” Then tell them the kitchen is closed.
- Not including kids in food choices. Bring your kids to the store. Have them pick healthy foods they want to try. Cook simple recipes together, and let them help in the kitchen. The more involved they are, the more interested they’ll be in eating what you want them to.
- Using food as a reward. Dessert may be a treat, but teaching kids to consider food as fuel is an important concept to share. Help your kids tune in to their bodies and determine whether they are hungry or satisfied. Keeping from labeling foods as “bad” or “good” will also help kids develop healthy eating habits.
- Failing to walk the walk. Finally, your kids will model your behavior, not what you tell them to do. If you want them to eat nutritiously, be a role model and do the same thing.