Raising Healthy Eaters

little girl with smoothie

In a world of delicious fares that are not always healthy, it can be hard to raise children to make the right choices when it comes to selecting meals. While it may be challenging, it is certainly not impossible to raise a child who not only eats properly, but knows how to make the better food choices by himself.

Lead by Example

The first step to ensuring your child will grow up as a healthy eater is to ensure the example you set for him encourages healthy eating. You can instruct him to eat well and place healthy food on his plate, but if he sees you eating something that looks more interesting, he’ll always prefer that.

Feed your child what you’re eating, so that the whole family eats well together. If you prepare the correct number of servings of fruits, vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates for everyone at every meal, there is almost no way your child can develop unhealthy eating habits unless your snack habits overwhelm your meals.

Start from the Beginning

From the time your child first begins solid foods you should be offering only healthy foods. It’s easy to avoid temptation early on as baby foods are prepackaged with very few poor options available. Almost all baby foods are good choices, but you’ll need to be sure you are feeing your child the right amount of each type of food. And there is no reason to include any of the dessert options in your child’s meals.

Stick to proteins, fruits, vegetables and cereals for carbohydrates. The formula or breastmilk will already provide all nutrients, so baby foods are truly only supplemental for the first few months your child is eating solids.

Healthy Table Foods

The first table foods your child will be able to eat include crackers and biscuits. Find options that include whole grains and as little sugar as possible. Toast or toasted bagels are better options than teething biscuits which contain plenty of sugar. Crackers are almost always better than cookies, and the more whole grains they contain the better. Just be sure any offerings don’t have small seeds or nuts that can be a choking hazard.

As the pincher grasp develops your child can begin to eat what you do. He may even shun the baby food he’s enjoyed up to this point. Feed him tiny bites of mashed or easy to gum foods, but leave out any foods he hasn’t samples before or that you aren’t proud to be eating yourself. Your child’s first table food should not be anything fried or dripping with sugar or grease. Cooked vegetables, soft fruits and tiny bits of meat or cooked beans are excellent options.

Fill the Plate Properly

In your child’s early years, he needs more carbohydrates than any other food group. This continues through adulthood, so never put your child on any type of restricted diet without consulting a doctor. Naturally you should restrict sugars and fats, but there is no need to limit fruits and breads so long as the fruit is fresh and the bread is whole grain.

Offer a variety of healthy foods at each meal and don’t fret if your child doesn’t eat every bite of every food. He may only eat one food at a meal or nibble at his roll at the next. So long as there are healthy options available that you know he’s enjoyed in the past, your child will eat what he needs. Be sure to limit snacks and fruit juices between meals, however, as these can fill an empty stomach preventing him from eating a healthy lunch or dinner.

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