In my profession as a pediatric dietitian I frequently have parents ask, “How do I change my child’s eating habits?” Some parents would like their child to eat more, some to eat less, others to eat healthier and others just to include more variety. We have all heard the traditional response that as a parent we should model good eating habits. Sometimes that just isn’t enough. I always include trying to make healthy eating fun for your children.
Some fun ideas for mealtimes include cutting foods into different shapes made to look like animals, or including the kids in your food shopping experiences, or eating by the color of the rainbow. But I say, first and foremost, let’s make them smile!
Teaching Healthy Eating for Kids
Recently, the American Dietetic Association and the USDA decided to do away with teaching the Food Guide Pyramid and recommended that we start teaching the “Healthy Plate”. When I was teaching this idea to young children and their parents I would get them involved by having them draw a huge smiley face on a piece of paper. The two eyes and the smile all represented food groups. Each eye represented protein and grain groups. The frown was reserved for fruits and veggies because that’s what makes us all smile! I would then let the child create a healthy meal using this as a guideline.
This healthy plate can cover all of the bases for problem eaters too. If the child needs to gain weight I would suggest using more calorie dense fruits and veggies and cooking them in olive oil or adding cheese. If the child is at a healthy weight then using a variety of colors is important to increase acceptance. Remember, if they don’t like veggies right away that is fine, fruits offer the same nutrients. You should still regularly present veggies at meals and eventually they may try them. No pressure is needed. Remember it is important to understand the proper serving sizes for little ones so as not to overwhelm them.
By: Kris Rudolph, Registered Dietitian