Healthy eating habits start early

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Ti­fani Ki­nard Polk Med­i­cal Cen­ter

Meal­time with kids can be stress­ful, es­pe­cially as a par­ent con­cerned about nutrition and es­tab­lish­ing good eating habits. The lim­ited amount of time for prepa­ra­tion and the in­evitable tim­ing of your child be­ing hun­gry be­fore din­ner is on the ta­ble only adds to the pres­sure.

Don’t let the stress get to you or cause you to give in to un­healthy choices. These doc­tor-ap­proved tips can help you cre­ate healthy eating habits for your kid at ev­ery stage of child­hood.

It’s im­por­tant to keep in mind that chil­dren this age are un­der­go­ing de­vel­op­men­tal changes. They are striv­ing for in­de­pen­dence and con­trol so pro­vid­ing lim­its while em­pow­er­ing your tod­dler will ease power strug­gles over meal­time choices.

Tod­dlers are of­ten hes­i­tant to try new foods so it’s im­por­tant to be flex­i­ble. Don’t make it a big deal if the food is re­jected. Give it a few days or weeks and try again.

Like all ages, por­tion sizes should al­ways be a con­sid­er­a­tion. A tod­dler por­tion should be about one-fourth the size of what an adult would eat.

While juices may seem easy, whole fruits should al­ways be en­cour­aged.

Make dessert a part of the meal, rather than treat­ing it as a re­ward.

Kids at this age are still de­vel­op­ing their eating habits and need en­cour­age­ment to eat healthy meals and snacks. Be­cause chil­dren will of­ten im­i­tate eating be­hav­iors of adults, a good prac­tice is to make healthy food choices for them to mimic. They might sur­prise you by want­ing to join in with your healthy meal or snack.

Don’t give up on of­fer­ing a va­ri­ety of foods. Trust that, even­tu­ally, your child will learn en­joy all foods.

Don’t put pres­sure on your child to eat. The no­tion of al­ways hav­ing to “clean your plate” could lead to eating be­yond the point of be­ing full, re­sult­ing in child­hood obe­sity.

This is a good age to be­gin lim­it­ing snack times. Fewer snacks will help your child be hun­grier at

meal time.

At this age, chil­dren have a con­sis­tent but slow rate of growth and usu­ally eat four to five times a day (in­clud­ing snacks). Many food habits, likes and dis­likes are established dur­ing this time. Family, friends and the me­dia (es­pe­cially TV) in­flu­ence food choices and eating habits.

School-age chil­dren are of­ten will­ing to eat a wider va­ri­ety of foods than their younger sib­lings. Eating healthy af­ter-school snacks is im­por­tant, too, as these snacks may con­trib­ute up to one-fourth of the to­tal calo­rie in­take for the day. School-age chil­dren have de­vel­oped more ad­vanced feed­ing skills and are able to help with meal prepa­ra­tion.

Al­ways serve break­fast, even if it has to be on the go. Some ideas for a quick, healthy break­fast in­clude: Fruit

Bagel or toast with cheese or peanut but­ter

Ce­real

Take ad­van­tage of big ap­petites af­ter school by serv­ing healthy snacks, such as:

Fruit Vegeta­bles and dip Yo­gurt Turkey or chicken sand­wich

Cheese and crack­ers Milk and ce­real Ti­fani Ki­nard is the Hos­pi­tal Ad­min­is­tra­tor and Chief Nurs­ing Of­fi­cer of Floyd Polk Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

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