Promoting kids’ healthy eating habits – Nutrition – Lifestyle – New Zealand Listener

How to instil healthy eating habits in your children.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you” – American author Robert Fulghum.

Parents face an unenviable series of hurdles in their quest to create a healthy diet for their children. They must understand an increasingly complex food-supply system, be media savvy and manage the far-reaching influence of television, the internet and other social media, while remotely influencing their child’s food choices in an environment that promotes obesity, with less-healthy foods widely available in and near schools. Welcome to healthy eating in the real world, a topic covered in a recently released Ministry of Health background paper, “Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2 to 18 years)”. The paper’s two extensive chapters of research and recommendations on the subject are a big increase from the page or two offered in previous dietary guidelines. Parents may feel they have little influence on their children’s diets, but as these new guidelines explain, that’s far from the truth. Rather, parents should understand that what they do, rather than what they say, is the key to success.

Message: Parental modelling has a positive influence on children’s diets. Behave the way you want your children to behave, such as eating a range of the foods on offer at meal times to provide a good example.

Message: Avoid restrictive and coercive child-feeding practices. Instead, create a happy and positive atmosphere at meal times and provide a range of healthy foods, in age-appropriate portion sizes, then allow your child to choose what and how much of each food he or she eats. Children involved with meal preparation improve their dietary quality. Likewise, children involved in growing vegetables, at school or home, are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Message: Involve children in meal preparation. This also allows you to spend time together.

Message: Provide a comfortable eating environment for shared family meals, away from distractions.

Message: Parents and caregivers have the power to limit outside influences on children’s eating, including through controlling access to media.

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