8 Tips to Improve Your Family's Eating Habits
Today's families are on-the-go and busier than ever before. But that doesn't mean good nutrition has to take a backseat to an endless to-do list.
Try these eight tips to keep your family on the fast track to healthy eating:
- Serve a fruit and/or vegetable at each meal and snack. Most children (and adults) don't eat recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. In fact, one study found that most kids eat only about a half-cup of each daily—and French fries were included as a vegetable! For many kids, MyPlate recommends 2 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit daily for good health. Some quick tips: top pancakes with fresh berries, serve hummus with carrots for lunch, offer apple slices with peanut butter for a snack, and add veggies to stir-fries and soups.
- Keep treats out of sight, out of mind. An occasional treat is fine, but keep less-nutritious chips, cookies and snack cakes tucked away in cabinets so they're not so easy for kids to see when they search for snacks. Instead, put better-for-you options in plain sight: keep cut-up veggies and low-fat dip front-and-center in the fridge and a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter.
- Get kids involved. Kids are more likely to eat new foods when they help prepare them. Flip through cookbooks together to find healthy recipes the whole family will enjoy. Bring kids to the grocery store to gather ingredients and give them jobs to help get meals ready. Even young children can do simple tasks like tearing lettuce for a salad, setting the table and scrubbing veggies.
- Make it a family affair. Research shows that families who eat dinner together tend to have healthier diets. One study showed that teens who frequently dined with their families ate more fruits and vegetables and less saturated fat, and drank fewer soft drinks as they got older. Eating together also lets your family catch up on the day's happenings, talk over important issues and simply enjoy each other's company. If dinnertime is hectic, eat breakfast together instead—it doesn't matter when it happens, just that it happens.
- Hold the distractions during mealtime. Don't allow kids to watch television, talk on the phone, do homework or play games during meals and snacks. Focus on the food and conversation instead.
- Let kids listen to their tummies. When kids say they're full, they probably are. Don't push them to take one more bite of vegetables or drink the rest of their milk. Let kids stop eating when they say "enough" so they learn to eat just the right amount (and think of all the arguments you'll avoid!). Kids who listen to their tummies can teach many adults a thing or two, as well.
- Be a good role model. Don't just tell your kids to eat healthy—show them how. Offer an array of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat milk products and enjoy them together at family meals and snacks.
- Pay attention to MyPlate. Use MyPlate as a tool to ensure your family's meals contain the types and amounts of foods needed for good health. Visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ to learn more about making smart choices from every food group, getting the most nutrition per calorie, balancing food choices with physical activity, and planning healthy menus.