Contrary to popular belief, healthy choices are about habits, not will power. For kids, patterns of behavior begin forming early in life. Whether learned from adults, other children, or TV, these patterns have an impact.
As Aristotle once said…
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
What impact habits have depends on what patterns of behavior form. For some, it’s eating vegetables at every meal, and for others it’s eating a bag of chips while sitting on the couch.
Kids Don’t Grow Out of Unhealthy Eating Habits
Years of poor food choices can trigger a myriad of undesirable medical problems including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and ultimately a lower life expectancy. For the first time in two centuries, the current generation of kids in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents due to the rapid rise in childhood obesity.
So, what can you do to encourage healthy eating habits in your child?
As a parent, you have the greatest influence on your child. By focusing on eating behaviors, and leading by example yourself, you can help your child stay healthy and maintain their ideal weight.
Here are five habits that every child needs to know:
- Proportion. Eating a healthy, balanced meal starts with understanding what a healthy serving is. Portion sizes have been steadily increasing since the ‘80s along with the waistlines of many children and adults. A good rule of thumb to teach your child is that vegetables should fill half of their plate and the other half should be divided into protein and whole grains.
- Self-monitoring. The number one predictor of success in any weight loss program is how well the participant monitors their food intake. It is important to know what food and how much you are putting in your body. If you want to a jump start to your weight loss program, start tracking your food. Self-monitoring provides accountability, immediate feedback and response, and the information needed to adjust food intake based on your goals.
- Read Food Labels. It’s important to teach your child to read food labels early. Knowing what is in your food leads to knowing what is in your body! Teach your child to know where to look for calories, fat, sugar and protein. Sugar, fat and protein are what’s called macronutrients, and these will be your guiding principles to weight loss. Knowing how to find them is important.
- Variety. No one food provides all the nutrition your child needs. Eating a variety of foods from all the food groups helps meet their nutritional needs. By routinely introducing new foods, your child becomes more comfortable with a wide range of nutritious options increasing the odds of a healthy diet.
- Conscious Eating. Have you ever been driving down the road only to realize that you have been zoning out for the last few minutes? That’s exactly what happens while eating in front of the television: mindless, unconscious eating. By having set times and places where meals are enjoyed, you can teach your child to eat slowly, only when hungry, and to stop eating when full.
Every child can learn healthy eating habits—but only if you show them how to do it.