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Five New Rules of Healthy Eating for Kids

The conversations and attitudes we have with children about food can be linked to their eating habits. Use these new tools developed by childhood obesity researchers to help guide children in a healthier direction:

Old: Clean your plate.
New: Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.
Forcing children to clean their plates can teach them to pair healthy dishes with anger and frustration. It can morph into guilt later in life when food is left on the plate - and encourage overeating.
Our bodies have natural systems to regulate food intake and necessity: hunger and fullness. Instead of pressuring kids to clean their plates, encourage them to stop eating when they’re satisfied. Intuitive/mindful eating leads to a healthy relationship with food and our bodies.

Old: Closely monitor each morsel.
New: Offer healthy, nutrient-dense options.
Instead of focusing on what not to eat, provide ample opportunities to make good choices. Research shows the more fruits and vegetables you offer, the more kids will consume them. New options can take time; children might need to try a new food 15 times before accepting or learning to love it.

Old: Ban kids from the kitchen.
New: Involve everyone in healthy meals.
Preparing meals as a family can be fun, and kids will feel invested in healthy choices. As you dream up new ways to cook veggies, talk about how good they taste and how strong and smart their nutrients can make you. Encourage your children to get creative!  If they help prepare the meal, they’re more likely to eat and enjoy it. Take it a step further and spend time with your kids in the garden growing healthy foods.

Old: Skip dessert.
New: Balance “sometimes” foods with healthier choices.
Calling concentrated sweets, including sweetened beverages, “sometimes” foods can help you keep them in their proper place. When your kids face choices at events like parties, teach them to take one of these food items in addition to several nutritious options. This may satisfy both their bodies and minds and help to avoid excess intake of these foods when they're available. Try fresh or baked fruits for a nutritious and delicious dessert option!

Old: Nag kids about their weight.
New: Model healthy, positive habits.
Set an example by eating more fruits and veggies yourself. A recent study by Australian researchers found this was a powerful influence on children’s eating habits. Model other health lifestyle habits, too: Stay active, sleep enough, and maintain a positive relationship with food and your body.