Developing good eating habits also helps fight obesity. Nearly one in four children ages two to five are overweight or obese, which puts children at risk for asthma, diabetes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure.
Heres some suggestions to help your child develop healthy eating habits:
- Teach them to make nutrient dense and not caloric dense choices such as fruits and vegetables instead of cookies.
- Teach them about foods with empty calories such as candy, cookies, ice cream, and some breakfast cereals.
- Teach them to avoid solid fats found in donuts, bacon, hot dogs, sausage, pastries and regular ground beef.
- Cook together so the child can have special time with the parents and also learn more than just cooking skills.
- Do not use food as a reward for good behavior or other achievements.
- Plant a garden because a child is more likely to eat vegetables he or she helped grow and harvest.
- Eat with your children so they can see you making good food choices and will learn food habits from you such as what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat, and where to eat.
- Take a trip to the grocery store to give children ownership in food choices by reading labels and comparing costs.
- Avoid putting a child on a diet - even if he or she is slightly overweight - because this sets up the child for issues such as eating disorders later in life. Instead, offer healthier food options and increase physical activity.
- Be aware of what a child is eating away from home and make a point to know the meals and snacks offered. More than 25 percent of children ages 2 to 4 are in day care 20 to 40 hours a week.
- Limit television time which encourages "mindless" eating.
"Weight gain is an indicator of an unhealthy society, added Tanda Kidd, associate professor of human nutrition and extension specialist at Kansas State University. We have to focus on ways to be healthier. Give the children a wide variety of healthy food options and let them choose which and how much to eat. Children may start by eating nothing or eating too much, but have an innate ability to know when they are hungry and when they are full. Parenting styles and family characteristics affect what a child eats, of course. So do community, demographic and societal characteristics such as school physical education programs, access to recreational facilities, school lunch programs and neighborhood safety.