Fast and convenience foods are not just tempting for adults -- they also appeal to kids. Even if your child eats too much junk food, such as soda, fast food and vending machine items, teaching her to give them up could be difficult, but not impossible. Teaching your children healthy habits when they are still very young can set an example that helps your child avoid high-fat and high-calorie foods for a lifetime. Switching junk foods for healthy choices also helps your child maintain a healthy weight.
Throw all the junk food out of your home to reduce temptation for your entire family. By keeping junk foods out of your home, your child will be less likely to throw a temper tantrum for them because he knows they are not easily accessible.
Talk to your child about the steps you are taking to encourage her to eat a healthier diet. Children know when changes are being made and it’s important to tell them why you are doing that. Discuss age-appropriate topics, such as why healthy foods are important and how she can be involved in making good choices at daycare or school. You also should inform any caregivers or family members that you want to reduce the amount of junk food your child eats.
Start your child's day with a healthy breakfast, such as whole-grain cereal with skim milk and a piece of fruit, instead of sugary foods. A healthy breakfast reduces hunger and gives your child energy to focus during the day. He may reach for junk food if he’s low on energy, so having breakfast can help prevent that.
Take your child to the grocery store with you. Ask her to choose some healthy meal options or to pick a colorful fruit or vegetable to try at dinner or lunch. By making your child an active decision maker in her diet, she is more likely to at least sample them.
Prepare pre-packaged snacks, such as apple and carrot slices and low-fat string cheese, and keep them in your refrigerator at all times. Many times children reach for junk food because it’s available in pre-packaged options. By making healthy snacks easily accessible, your child will be more likely to choose them instead of unhealthy ones.
Reinforce your child’s healthy behaviors by recognizing and telling him he is doing a good job when he makes a healthy choice. By making your child feel good about his choices, you will encourage him to continue doing so.
TIPS AND WARNINGS
- As your child’s caregiver, you serve as a role model. When you are trying to encourage healthy habits for your child, you also must make the same choices. By eating a healthful diet and avoiding junk food, you will set a good example for your child.
- When you make the decision to cut junk foods out of your child’s diet, it’s important to be consistent, according to Dr. Pam Popper, Ph.D, ND, who wrote on the National Parent Teacher Association website. If your child believes you will give in and let him have sugary sodas and fried foods, you will be less likely to be successful in changing her diet. Emphasizing discipline and consistent eating is vital to your success.
- Healthcare.gov: Healthy Eating
- Healthfinder.gov: Help Your Child Stay At a Healthy Weight
- National PTA: Getting Children to Eat Right