Eating habits developed early in a child’s life can impact their food choices when they become adults. However, encouraging your preschooler to eat a healthy variety of food can be challenging! A wonderful tool to help parents tackle this issue is the ChooseMyPlate.gov website.
Parents have the biggest influence on their child and can help them develop healthy eating habits for life. Here are some of the suggestions offered by MyPlate.
Set a good example. Preschoolers love to copy what their parents do – your table manners, your likes and dislikes, your willingness to try new foods, and your physical activities. Let your child see you enjoying a variety of different foods.
Offer a variety of foods. This helps preschoolers get the nutrients they need from every food group. They will also be more likely to try new food and to like more foods. When preschoolers develop a taste for many types of foods, it’s easier to plan family meals.
Follow a meal and snack schedule. Plan for 3 meals and 1 or 2 snacks each day. Preschoolers often do not eat enough at a meal to stay full until the next mealtime. Make sure that the foods offered at each meal and snack contributes toward your child’s needs.
Help them know when they’ve had enough to eat. Kids who “listen” to their own fullness cues stop eating when they feel full and are less likely to become overweight. Give your kids a chance to stop eating when they feel full, even if you think they aren’t. They’ll feel more independent and you’ll help them keep a healthy weight.
Start with Small Amounts. Don’t insist that children finish all the food on their plate. Let your child know it is okay to only eat as much as he or she wants at that time.
Make mealtimes a Family time. Start eating meals together as a family when your kids are young. This way, it becomes a habit.
Try this simple, healthy snack with your child.
Ingredients: English muffins, peanut butter, margarine or light cream cheese, fruit (apple, banana, orange, seedless grapes, etc)
1. Have the children wash the fruit. They can peel bananas and oranges, pluck the grapes from their stem. An adult should cut all fruit into small pieces.
2. Split the English muffin. Give each child one half.
4. Have each child top the muffin with fruit pieces.
Author: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension
Source: ChooseMyPlate.gov http://www.choosemyplate.gov/preschoolers/index.html
No Battles, Better Eating for Kids, Food and Health Communications, Inc., 2002: 21.