Commentary by Andy Dillingham, DO
Helping your children establish (and hopefully maintain) good eating habits means starting early, introducing nutritious foods, modeling good eating behavior and maintaining a home environment that reinforces a healthy lifestyle.
When it comes to healthy eating, it is important to recognize there are a wide range of parenting styles and many acceptable ways to help kids get the nutrition they need and provide motivation to make good choices. The key is to find what works for your family, and to foster an environment where your children have access to healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.
It is critical that mealtime not be a struggle for the parent or the child. It is a parent’s job to provide a healthy (and hopefully delicious) meal. It is a child’s choice whether to eat it. The most important thing is to continue offering healthy alternatives, encouragement and reasons why eating a variety of healthy foods will help him or her grow up to be healthy and strong. When parents start introducing healthy foods early, children are more likely to accept them. Other strategies include eating meals together as a family and serving as a good role model when snacking at home and when ordering at restaurants. If your child sees you making good choices, he or she is likely to follow your lead. Children that embrace healthy habits at a young age are more likely to continue them into adulthood.
Given the wealth of information on raising children (both good and bad) at our fingertips, it is important to use reliable resources. One way to obtain good information is to ask your primary care physician. I often refer my patients to the websites choosemyplate.gov and healthychildren.org to provide additional guidance.
Andy Dillingham, DO, specializes in family medicine and is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Primary Care – IU Health North Hospital. He can be reached by calling the office at 688.5626. For more health information, subscribe to Strength In You at iuhealth.org/StrengthInYou.