Forming good eating habits does not happen overnight. Learning to read and write also takes several years to develop. All of these are life skills that can help your child live a healthy, satisfying life. Here are some suggestions on ways to nurture good food habits.
Give your child enough table time.
Does your child eat slow? Is he/she the last one to finish? That is normal. Young children need practice eating with silverware. Their small muscles take time to develop. Eat at a pace that lets you enjoy your food. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that your stomach is full. Rushing mealtime can end up making you and your family feel frustrated.
Be a good role model.
Do you eat collard greens, asparagus or mangos? If you do, chances are your child will eat them also-if not now then maybe later. It is not just what you say but also what you do. Role models for your children are all the people around them. Most children grow up doing what others do.
Skip the urge to reward, punish, or appease your child with food.
Have you ever said: "Clean your plate and then you can go play."
"Stop whining and I will give you a cookie."
"No Dessert till you have eaten your vegetables."
This type of remark can lead to eating problems, conflict and struggles during mealtimes.
Eating a food treat to feel better teaches kids to relieve bad feelings by eating. This can lead to overeating later on.
Giving a dessert as a reward for eating another food such as vegetables makes some foods seem better.
Having a clean plate can teach a child to ignore body signals that they are full and may lead to overeating.
Eating for parental approval or love teaches unhealthy behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs about food and themselves.
Source: Nibbles for Health, Nutrition Newsletter for Parents of Young Children, USDA, Food & Nutrition Service.