Please explain the importance of parents maintaining and modeling healthy eating habits for their families?
Parents or primary caregivers are the most important role models in a child’s life. Children cannot purchase or prepare their own meals, and are therefore dependent on the adults in their lives to provide healthy foods. Children, especially picky eaters, are more likely to eat foods they see their parents and caregivers eating and enjoying.
Providing a positive eating environment is as important a providing healthy foods. Children are born with a natural ability to regulate their food intake, as long as a division of responsibility in feeding is established. Adults are responsible for providing healthy foods at consistent times for young children. Children, on the other hand, are responsible for deciding to (or not to) eat, what to eat from the foods that are offered, and how much to eat. Don’t let yourself become a short order cook by only providing the 1 or 2 foods your child demands. If they are hungry, they will eventually eat, and if they skip a meal, they will naturally make up for it at the next meal or snack. Allow children to eat based on their internal hunger cues instead of forcing them to “clean their plate”.
Here are some other ways parents and caregivers can be healthy role models:
- Show by example-enjoy healthy foods and beverages in front of your children.
- Have family meals-sit down as a family to a healthy meal. Be sure to serve the same healthy foods to everyone at the table.
- Encourage your child to help with grocery shopping and cooking-children are more likely to try a healthy food they helped pick out and prepare.
- Don’t use food as incentive or punishment-reward with non-food items like hugs, encouraging words, playing a favorite game, or reading a favorite book.
For more information, visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet12BeAHealthyRoleModel.pdf.
This post was written by Monica Griffin, MS, RD, LD.