By Susan Howard
This is Part Two of my Tater Tot series where I suggest ways for you to keep your child at a healthy weight and instill in them good habits for years to come.
Never tell your child to eat everything on her plate. Teach her to listen to her body’s natural cues of hunger and fullness. Let her be in charge of taking inventory as much as possible.
Fill their plates with tons of colorful nutritious options and then let them decide how much of what they eat. Our pediatrician, Dr. Liddy, told us kids will self-regulate if given the chance. Isn’t that what you ultimately want? When they are out of the house you aren’t going to be there telling them to finish their veggies (unless they are still in the house after college, which seems common these days, but that’s a different story).
Teach them about what food does. Brandy is tireless in explaining to the kids that protein builds muscles, milk helps bones get strong, carbohydrates give energy, and veggies give vitamins to see and keep you feeling good. It doesn’t have to be too complex – simple stuff like “that broccoli has fiber in it so you can poop.” Then they understand what a balanced diet is and why they need it.
Take them to local farmers’ markets, farms, and berry picking spots. Teach them that food doesn’t come from a package; it comes from the ground or a pasture. Allow your children to have a connection with what real food is. No it’s not in a Twinkie wrapper.
Plant a garden. Herbs are an easy way to start. And let your kids help! My daughter loves dirt and worms and being a little pioneer toddler; she’s a regular Laura Ingalls. She also now loves basil, parsley, and rosemary, and can pick it right off the vine.
Cook with your kids. Start with something easy that involves a lot of stirring and pouring. A fun recipe to try is basically penne pasta, veggies, and cheese in a muffin tin –super easy pasta muffins!
Make healthy foods flavorful. Take a cooking class, buy a new cookbook, watch the Food Network. If your kids aren’t eating it, up your game.
Limit excessive television watching. One of my clients just told me her house rule: if the sun is out no television. I like that because it seems to encourage kids to take on the day and be active.
Inquire about the hot lunch program at your school. Be involved! Try to link fresh produce with the cafeteria. It is a battle worth fighting for.