In 2010, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the 7th edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans which provide recommendations intended for Americans ages 2 years and over, including those with increased risk of chronic diseases. The guidelines encourage Americans to focus on eating a healthful diet, one that focuses on foods and beverages that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health, and prevent disease.
In June 2011, MyPlate replaced My Pyramid which is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MyPlate illustrates the five food groups using a familiar mealtime visual, a place setting with a plate and glass divided into the five food groups.
Parents play a key role in making healthy choices for their children and teaching them to make healthy choices for themselves. Establishing healthy eating habits in children is challenging however important so that they can get the right nutrients to grow and develop properly.
Parents as role models
What you eat and drink and your level of physical activity are important for your own health, and also for your kids’ health. You are your kids’ most important role model. Your kids pay attention to what you do more than what you say. In order to be good role models we must educate ourselves first and then practice what we speak.
Have regular family meals
Eating together isn’t just a chance to model good behavior but finding time to eat as a family has a host of benefits that go far beyond nutrition. Kids who eat with their family do better in school and are less likely to smoke, drink, do drugs or get into fights. A new study from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health shows that even if the meal is served in front of the television, kids eat healthier than those who don’t dine with loved ones. When a family dines together, they eat better.
Choosing regular food supply
Kids enjoy shopping for groceries and tend to ask for less nutritious foods. Adults should decide on which foods should be stocked in the house. But be flexible! Anything in moderation is okay. If their favorite snack isn’t at all nutritious, why not keep it for special occasions? But remember; do not use food for rewards as children get older. They might think that treats are better than other foods. Just make sure there are more nutritious snacks available and easily accessible.
Offer a variety of foods
Offering a variety of foods helps kids get the nutrients they need from every food group. Patience work better than pressure. Although adults usually decide what kids eat, we all know that kids eat what is available. Therefore, surrounding them with healthier options leaves them no choice but to eat better food.
Avoid praising a clean plate
Let kids stop eating when they feel they have had enough. Give your kids a chance to recognize when they feel full. They’ll feel independent and are less likely to become overweight.
Involve your children
Kids love eating food which they have prepared or created. They feel good when they do something like what grown-ups do. Involving them in shopping, food preparation and cooking of family meals is also a good way to teach them the benefits of healthy meals and provides them the feeling of accomplishment.
Praise their efforts
Try not to use foods as rewards as this may start using food to cope with stress or other emotions. There are other ways of rewarding kids for good behavior and managing misbehavior. Praising the efforts and not the outcome may also mean recognizing your child when he has worked hard.
Make food FUN!
Kids are easily tempted with junk foods every day. Instead of completely eliminating these foods, try some alternatives. Instead of fried chicken or French fries, try baking or grilling them. Choose smart, fun snacks and meals.
This guest post was contributed by VISTA Health Solutions, New York health insurance agency.