Child in car seat

Originally written by experts with National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

 

How can I help my child form healthy habits?

As a parent or caregiver, you play a big part in shaping children's eating and drinking habits. When you make it a habit to consume foods and beverages that are low in added sugars, saturated fat, and salt and are high in fiber, the children you care for may learn to like these foods as well. If a child you are caring for does not like a new food right away, don't be upset. Children often need to see a new food many times before they will try it.

Be a role model. As a parent or caregiver, you also have an effect on children's physical activity. You do not need to be an expert at any activity. Just get up, move, and show children how much fun being active can be. They may grow to like it too. You can set a good example by going for a walk or riding a bike instead of watching TV, playing a video game, or surfing the internet. Find an activity that you enjoy and can do together.

Talk about being healthy. As you learn more about how to improve your health, take the time to talk to your children about how a certain food or physical activity may help them. For example, when going for a walk, bring your children with you and let them pick the route. Discuss how walking helps you feel better and is a fun way to spend time together.

Use your children's food and beverage choices as teaching moments. Speak up when you see unhealthy choices. Direct children to healthier options or say, "You can have a little of that, but not too much." Talk to them about why an overly salty or heavily sugared snack is not the best choice. Avoid making them feel guilty about their food or beverage choices. You can also praise your children when they choose a healthy item like fruit.

 

What should my child eat and drink?

Just like adults, children need to consume foods and beverages that are packed with nutrients. Also, like adults, children should consume just enough calories to fuel their daily living and activities. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest balancing calories you consume with physical activity. The guidelines also recommend improving eating habits to promote health, reduce the risk of disease, and reduce overweight and obesity. Americans ages 2 years and older are encouraged to consume a variety of healthy foods and beverages. Suggested items include

  • fruits, vegetables, unsalted nuts and seeds (please make sure your child can tolerate these foods and isn’t allergic to them), and whole grains
  • fat-free or low-fat dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified nondairy beverages
  • a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, and soy products

 

How can I help my child with his or her weight?

Here are some dos and don’ts.

  • Accept and love your child at any weight. Doing so will boost self-esteem.
  • Involve the whole family in following healthy habits, even if other family members are not overweight.
  • Focus on healthy eating, regular physical activity, and adequate sleep, rather than a number on the scale.
  • Help your child find ways other than food or beverages to handle setbacks or mark successes.
  • Talk with your health care professional to get trusted advice about addressing your child’s health habits and weight. The internet is full of misinformation that may be hard to distinguish from good advice.

Remember, you play the biggest role in your children's lives. You can help your children learn healthy eating, physical activity, and other habits to follow for the rest of their lives.

 

Originally posted by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/healthy-eating-physical-activity-for-life/helping-your-child-tips-for-parents


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