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Want to encourage your kids to eat healthier? Here’s how.

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The number of children in the U.S. who are overweight or obese is rising at an alarming rate – and that statistic is cause for concern. The rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s and today about 1 in 5 school-aged children are overweight or obese.

Childhood obesity not only affects a child’s self-esteem and social interactions but it can lead to a host of health problems as children grow into adulthood, including high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, joint problems, and asthma. A study of 5 – 17-year-olds found almost 60% of overweight children had at least one risk factor for heart disease and 25% had two or more risk factors.

“It is important to discuss healthy lifestyles including, healthy eating habits and physical activity with your pediatrician. Monitoring both physical and mental development is an essential part of your child’s annual wellness visit. I caution parents to avoid unhealthy emphasis on fad diets and inappropriate weight recommendations and instead, model healthy behaviors so their children will follow their example.”

-Elizabeth D. Seiter, MD, FAAP, Pediatric Medicine

As a parent, you can help your children develop healthy eating habits so they have the best chance of staying healthier now and in the future.

5 ways to promote healthy eating habits:

  1. Model healthy behaviors. Kids watch what their parents do, so if you make healthy food choices, your kids are more likely to do the same.
  2. Get the kids involved. When kids have a say in selecting what they eat, they’re more likely to eat it. Take kids to the grocery store with you, offer healthy options and let them choose what makes the final cut into the shopping cart. Helping with meal prep also ups kids’ interest in eating healthy food.
  3. Find new ways to make favorite dishes. Healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to eliminate the foods kids love. Just find healthier ways to make them. For example, sneak veggies into dishes like mac n’ cheese and casseroles. Lightly bread and bake chicken tenders instead of frying.
  4. Watch portion sizes. Serve meals on individual plates rather than placing large bowls or platters of food on the table. Buy snacks in single-serving bags.
  5. Make healthy foods easily available. If your child opens the fridge or pantry to see it stocked with plenty of fruits and vegetables and not many sugar-sweetened snacks, they’ll be more likely to make good choices.

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Date Last Reviewed: July 16, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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