As a parent or caregiver, you play an important role in your children’s food choices. The family environment you create and the foods you offer will influence the eating habits your children develop. If you want your children to develop healthy habits, provide them with positive experiences with food and be good role models.
How Can Parents Influence Their Children’s Eating Habits?
1 – Create a Positive Eating Environment
A positive food environment begins with an understanding that food is not ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ It is simply an energy source. Too many people think of food as a reward, punishment, or a source of comfort. Instead, think of food as a pleasurable part of life.
2 – Offer a Variety of Foods
Include a wide selection of foods. Offer a variety of healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, as well as fortified and enriched grains.
3 – Serve a Balanced Meal
Always include a variety of foods from all the food groups at each meal.
4 – Serve only Healthy Snacks
Healthy snacks are low in fat, sugar, and calories. Avoid serving too many snacks between meals. Serve healthy snacks and encourage your child to eat them.
5 – Serve Meals at a Relaxed Time
Try to make mealtime a relaxing social time for the family. Turn off the TV, radio, or music and encourage family members to talk to each other while they eat.
6 – Serve the Right Amount of Food
Children learn to eat the right amount by watching you eat. Serve an appropriate portion size and have your child finish the food on their plate at each meal.
7 – Avoid Using Food to Control Your Child
If you offer food as a reward or a control device, you may teach your children to develop unhealthy eating habits. Children quickly learn that eating is more about social relationships than about food. They begin to seek food for approval or to avoid disapproval.
8 – Don’t Fight About Food
Avoid power struggles and arguments over food. Serve only healthy food, but don’t prohibit your children from eating foods that are popular but not so healthy. If your child wants a cookie, give them a piece with a glass of milk.
9 – Be a Good Role Model
Your children will learn about food by watching you. The more positive experiences your children have with food and eating, the more likely they are to develop healthy habits.
10 – Eat with Your Child
Eat with your children as much as possible. Sit down to family dinners together several times a week. Even younger children can enjoy family dinners, such as snacks in a highchair and cereal at the table.
When possible, provide healthy foods, and balanced meals, and avoid snacking between meals. Children learn to love and accept a variety of foods by watching the everyday interactions of their parents. Good food habits are learned over time and many times from modeling. A positive relationship with food begins at home and should be established from your child’s first bite.
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