Healthy Eating: Helping Your Child Learn Healthy Eating Habits
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Childhood is the best time to learn the healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
Healthy eating can help your child feel good, stay at or reach a healthy weight, and have lots of energy for school and play. In fact, healthy eating can help your whole family live better.
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Healthy eating means eating:
It also means limiting:
Healthy eating doesn't mean that your child has to give up all desserts and treats. Those types of foods can be okay now and then. Just remember that moderation is the goal.
Is it okay for children to be vegetarians?
Vegetarian diets can be healthy for children and teens. A strict vegetarian diet (vegan) that does not include meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs might require some planning to be sure your child is getting enough calories, vitamins, and minerals. Young vegan children tend to be slightly smaller but still within normal ranges for growth. And they tend to catch up to other children in size as they get older. Parents can get help from a registered dietitian who is experienced in vegan diets.
A vegetarian diet that includes milk products and eggs can be a healthy way to eat for children and teens. In fact, it can be a great way to get them into a lifelong habit of healthy eating.
If your teen decides to become a vegetarian, teach him or her how to plan meals to get all the right nutrients every day. Teens need calcium and vitamin D. And iron is especially important for teen girls who are menstruating. Talk with your doctor about how much of these vitamins and minerals your child needs. Ask if your teen needs to take a daily supplement.
Test Your Knowledge
A vegetarian diet is not healthy for my growing child.
Children who weigh too much may end up with serious health problems, including:
Healthy eating can help your child stay at or reach a healthy weight, grow, and have lots of energy for school and play. It's one of the most important habits you can teach your child to give him or her a healthy life.
Of course, these habits are not just good for children. They're good for the whole family.
Test Your Knowledge
Healthy eating is one of the most important habits I can teach my children.
Share the responsibility. You decide when, where, and what the family eats. Your child chooses whether and how much to eat from the options you provide.
Young children are good at listening to their bodies. They eat when they're hungry. They stop when they're full. When we try to control how much children eat, we interfere with this natural ability. Keeping this division of responsibility helps your child stay in touch with those internal cues.
Help your children learn to eat slowly and recognize when they are full. Don't let rules, pleading, or bargaining dictate your child's eating patterns.
You can use some or all of the ideas below to get started. You may find other ideas that work for your family, and you can add those to these lists.
After a few days or weeks
Use knowledge to reinforce healthy eating habits
Help your children understand healthy eating by teaching them about food—where it comes from, how it grows, what nutrients it contains, and how many calories (how much energy) it has.
Test Your Knowledge
It's important to give my child complete freedom when it comes to when, where, and how much to eat.
Now that you have read this information, you are ready to help your child learn healthy eating habits.
Talk with your doctor
If you have questions about this information, print it out and take it with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to use a highlighter to mark areas or make notes in the margins of the pages where you have questions.
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