Help Your Child Develp Healthy Eating Habits
"Is my child eating enough? Or too much? Should I let her have that extra snack? Why won't she allow a vegetable within 10 feet of her?" Sound familiar?
Before you break into a cold sweat, congratulate yourself -- you survived the toddler years, which are usually marked by super-picky eating.
In fact, according to William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., and Loraine Stern, M.D., authors of The American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child's Nutrition, school-age children are often reasonable when it comes to mealtimes: "Most children at this age are prepared to sample a variety of foods. Their appetites vary according to their growth and activity levels. And the pattern children establish as toddlers -- three full meals and a couple of snacks daily -- should continue as they move into the school years."
Help Kids Develop a Healthy Attitude
Still, there's plenty a parent can do to help guide their child's attitude toward food. First and foremost is to not stress over every single meal but rather look at the bigger picture when it comes to your child's eating habits.
"Try to aim for a healthy variety of foods over the course of one week, rather than one meal or even one day," says Jennifer Shu, M.D., author of Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup. "In addition, one good guideline to follow is to allow only one unhealthy treat per day -- and no more than that."
Tips to Improve Their Nutrition
The following five tips can also help to ensure your child's diet is a winner:
1. Chances are your child isn't getting enough calcium.
A good rule of thumb for children ages 5 to 9 is two glasses of milk a day and one other serving of dairy products or a food high in calcium like broccoli or dark-green leafy vegetables.
2. The more fruits and vegetables you serve your child, the better.
Aim for at least five servings a day. Dr. Dietz and Dr. Stern suggest incorporating these foods into favorite recipes.
"For example, you can mix applesauce in waffle batter or mix blueberries or sliced bananas into pancakes. Replace the ground meat in spaghetti sauce or taco filling with a mixture of minced and chopped vegetables, such as onion, carrot, celery, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, and eggplant. For a change from the usual snacks, let your children make their own colorful kebabs with raw fruit chunks and diced cheese, or serve raw vegetable sticks with low-fat dips."
3. Choose protein wisely.
"Parents need to choose lean meats -- for example, there are 29 cuts of lean beef that have less fat than dark meat chicken!" says Dr. Shu. "In addition, it's a good rule of thumb to serve fish twice a week." Eggs, peanut butter, and baked beans all contain protein as well.
4. Try to limit juice to no more than 6 to 8 oz. a day since it is loaded with sugar. Instead, offer water between meals.
5. Remember that breakfast really does matter.
Studies have shown that children who don't eat breakfast have trouble staying alert and concentrating during the first hours of the school day.
At the very least, give your child a healthy breakfast to go, such as a low-fat granola bar, a baggie of dry cereal and sliced fruit, or a whole-wheat waffle or bagel with peanut butter.