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Children and Healthy Eating

by Tom Seman MD FAAP August 15th, 2013 | Children's Health, Pediatrician on Call
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veggiesA healthy lifestyle begins with healthy eating and nutrition, but what constitutes healthy eating? The answer is not as difficult as it seems;eat smart and in moderation. What does eat smart mean?

Healthy eating should start at birth. When a child is only a few months old, it eats the healthiest it most likely ever will. All of the child’s nutrition is cared for, and the child is very willing to eat it. We, as parents, then start introducing solid foods often between 4 – 6 months of age. It is often during this time that the child starts to demonstrate his palate of foods he likes and those he does not.

As they start to grow older, the child’s development creates a need to be in charge, and with this, they start to manipulate their diets by refusing certain foods from their parents. In turn, the parents then start to concentrate their feeding with those foods that the child prefers. With this, the child starts to further limit his palate of desired foods.

The goal at the very beginning is to continue to promote a wide palate by steadily introducing new and once refused foods over again so as to develop a broader palate. To help with this, a parent can find certain flavor qualities that a child likes, such as sweet, sour, and salty.  Also, use dips or spices to entice a child to try the food. Or try a different form or texture of the food, such as cooked. In regards to fruit and vegetables, maybe leave it raw if possible. Don’t get frustrated, though. It is said a child needs to see a food at least 19 times before he is willing to try it.

Now what if your child is already older, what then? Healthy eating starts at home. Most every meal of every day a child should be offered proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy complex carbohydrates. Promoting good nutrition is educating the child, when offering him choices and explaining which is the better. Having healthy snacks around is also important. With this being the main choice, they will choose them and develop a taste for them above other options, whether at home or away.

However, should a child still like sweets, he should be allowed o have some occasionally, but in moderation. Furthermore, sweets should be emphasized as treats and not as a basic food group. If forbidden to have them, human nature will naturally further crave the sweets.

If possible, start a small garden. Younger children are more likely to try a fruit or vegetable they helped grow. Provide snacks for school, have some fruit, cut up veggies and some homemade granola available at home as snacks . Recent literature shows that a child’s eating pattern is influenced by what is readily available. In other words, if they see it, they will eat it. So show them what YOU want them to see and eat.

For further information, go to www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone.

Good Luck,
DRTOM

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.