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Tips to Help Kids Develop Healthy Eating Habits
By Elaine Porterfield
Keeping kids at a healthy weight is important to Angela Marith, a mother of three young children and a Group Health wellness product manager. Her ideas, along with some from Group Health Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics, are designed to encourage healthy eating habits.
- Offer only healthy choices at every meal.
- Limit eating out, and strictly limit fast food.
- Eat meals as a family.
- Let children choose from what's offered at a meal and eat as much as they want. But don't urge them to "clean their plate." Instead, help them tune into their own sense of fullness.
- Make desserts an occasional treat.
- Grow some of your own food, which may help your kids try something new. "My 6-year-old has always said she didn't like carrots until we planted some in the garden," says Marith.
- Say "no" to soda and sugary drinks.
- Eat breakfast.
- Make food colorful; ideally include five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- Involve kids in finding healthy, fun foods. Let them choose a fruit or vegetable at the farmers market or grocery store.
- Limit screen time — which includes time in front of any screen (such as TV, video games, and smart phones) — to two hours or less a day. If the kids want to watch a movie, do it as a family, but not every day.
- Model healthy behavior and make physical fitness part of every day. Kids should be active an hour a day. "My personal fitness approach is this: I run by myself every other day in the evening," says Marith. "The opposite day, any kid that wants to can come with me. We do a lot of skipping and running and some jogging."