Raising Healthy Eaters from Preschool to High School
- Serve regular, balanced meals and snacks with a variety of nutrient-rich foods
- Involve them in their nutrition, take them to the store or plant a garden together. Let them help cook.
- Provide calm, pleasant meal times where adults and children can talk together
- Allow children to use their internal signals to decide how much and what to eat
- Explore a variety of flavors and foods from different cultures and cuisines
- Share an appreciation for healthful food, lovingly prepared and shared with others
- Find credible food and nutrition resources when you don’t know the answer.
Make Fitness Part of Your Child’s Day
- If your children can walk or bike to and from school, they will get all the physical and mental benefits of being active, while you save on gas fill-ups.
- Walk or bike with your kids when you can; organize a neighborhood walking- or bike-pool for days when you are not able to go with them.
Talking to Kids about Weight
- Don’t Talk, Do Something: In general, if your child is elementary age or younger and you’re concerned about his or her weight, don’t talk about it; just start making lifestyle changes as a family. The best thing you can do is make it easy for kids to eat smart and move often. Serve regular, balanced family meals and snacks. Turn off televisions, video games and computers. Look for ways to spend fun, active time together.
- Don’t Play the Blame Game: Never yell, scream, bribe, threaten or punish children about weight, food or physical activity. If you turn these issues into parent-child battlegrounds, the results can be disastrous. Shame, blame and anger are setups for failure. The worse children feel about their weight, the more likely they are to overeat or develop an eating disorder.
- A United Front: As with any other important issue, make sure both parents and other important relatives are on the same page. Mixed messages about weight can have unhealthy consequences.
- Talk with Your Health-Care Provider: If a health professional mentions a concern about your child’s weight, speak with him or her privately. Discuss specific concerns about your child’s growth pattern. Ask for ideas on making positive changes in your family eating habits and activity levels.
- Seek Advice: For kids and teens, check out local programs and professionals who specialize in youth. Look for a registered dietitian with a specialty in pediatric weight management. Many hospitals and clinics have comprehensive programs with education and activities for both kids and adult family members. Some of these options may be covered by your health insurance plan.
- Focus On the Big Picture: The key is health, not weight. If your family starts eating better and moving more, your children may “grow into” their weight as their height increases. Compliment your children on lifestyle behaviors (“Great snack choice,” or “You really run fast”) rather than on the loss of a pound or two.
- Be Active by Playing Together. For a healthy weight, kids and adults need 30 to 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Play with your kids every day. It’s fun for them and fun for you too.
- Make Family Mealtimes a Special Time Together. Eating more meals together can make a big difference in your family’s health, happiness and finances. Dinners made at home are cheaper than eating out and easier to prepare than you might think.
- Enjoy Fruits and Vegetables Together. Serve a rainbow of produce every day. Serve juicy, crunchy, delicious fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack. Fresh, frozen, dried, canned and 100 percent juice…all types of produce contribute to good health.
- Drink Milk with Meals and Water with Snacks. Low-fat dairy products can help kids maintain a healthy weight, build strong bodies and lower blood pressure. Water is always a refreshing and calorie-free choice too.
- Take Televisions and Video Games Out of Bedrooms. Kids who get enough sleep are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television in children’s rooms to reduce screen time and promote healthy sleep habits.
Active Alternatives to TV
- Get off the phone. Walk and talk with friends in person.
- Turn off the TV. Play tennis, go in-line skating, hiking or dancing.
- Turn off the computer. Sign up for a community summer sports team.
- Volunteer for community service—for example at a community garden, home-building project, community clean-up or summer camp.
- Baby-sit and take the kids to a park or on a bike ride.
**Being active now helps reduces kids risk of chronic health problems later in life. Encourage your children to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.