From the Desk of The Nutty Nutritionist

Eating Better–Family Style

In Feeding your kids on November 5, 2012 at 6:38 PM

The most important part of any meal shared at home is FAMILY—connecting with one another, discussing the day’s experiences, sharing some laughs (or tears), and enjoying healthy, nourishing foods together.  Got some picky-eaters at home? I’m not referring exclusively to children here—adult family members can be equally resistant to eating a well-balanced meal.  The good news is that setting a positive example by eating nutritious meals as a family can actually improve your children’s (or spouse’s!) eating habits—they are more likely to eat  fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and dairy products (like milk and yogurt) when shared with their parents and loved ones.   Children will also develop valuable social skills, table manners, and conversation by eating at the same table together.

Children learn by modeling themselves after their parents.  Eating together lets parents show their children, by example, how to choose nutritious foods, know when they are full, and how to try new tastes.  If you are a parent who loves to eat junk food, don’t chow down on cookies, chips, and fast food in front of your children on a regular basis.  If you are always bringing chips, cookies, and candy into your home and eating them with reckless abandon, you are sending the wrong message to your kids—they will likely grow into adults who regularly toss junk into their grocery carts for your future grandchildren.  The buck stops here—no more excuses about how you were raised—unhealthy habits need to stop with YOU.

Members of the “Clean Plate Club” also beware–if you always eat every morsel of food off your plate, regardless of how hungry you are, your kids will learn to lick their plates clean, hungry or not.  Yes, there are starving children in Ethiopia, but maybe you should start serving smaller portions (or using a smaller plate) so leftovers can be stored in the fridge for lunch or dinner tomorrow rather than in your belly.  No need to overstuff—-you all will have the chance to eat again tomorrow.  Unhealthy habits need to end with you if you want your kids to grow up healthy and pass healthy habits on to future generations.

A healthy, balanced meal contains at least 3 out of 5 major food groups:  lean meat, vegetables, fruit, whole grain starch, and dairy.  A  grilled chicken breast, small baked potato or 1/2 cup of brown rice, 1 cup (or more) of vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli, or asparagus, and a 6-8 oz glass of skim milk will be sufficient for most school-aged children, with the exception of teenage boys—they will generally eat you out of “house and home” and consume more calories than at any other time in their lives!  Just make sure they are filling up on the healthy stuff first, before they turn to junk foods.  That way, they will grow into lean young men, capable of making healthy choices and managing their weight.

Is dessert with dinner a tradition?  Fruit, another valuable food group, makes for a fabulous sweet treat—try baking (or microwaving) apples and topping with cinnamon for a special seasonal treat!  Teaching your kids that dessert is not always associated with calorie-rich junk food is a worthwhile lesson indeed!

If you want to set a good example for your family, it is time to develop healthy eating habits for yourself—then watch your family follow your lead!  For more information and ideas on this topic, turn to the “Feeding Your Kids” category in the Archives.

Any questions?  Feel free to ask!

  1. Good to see you back online. 🙂

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