Healthy eating habits during
childhood are important for well-
ness and growth, but they also
serve another crucial function
— childhood eating habits often
become lifelong habits. So
healthy habits form the basis for
a lifetime of good nutrition.
The foundation for healthy
eating is simple: Eat a variety of
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The American Academy of
Pediatrics suggests offering chil-
dren a variety of food choices, in-
cluding grains, low–fat products,
lean meat, fish, poultry and
legumes, fruits and vegetables.
Don't worry excessively about
how much or well a child eats at
a single meal or even in single
day. Over a week, the choices
should even out and provide a
balance of nutrients that best
meet his needs. Children are the
best judges of how much they
should eat, and the parents' best
role is to steer them toward ap-
propriate food selections.
Pediatricians and nutrition-
ists agree, however, that it's not
wise to force a child to eat foods
he doesn't like. Instead, by to of-
fer several choices of foods that
fill the nutritional bill you're try-
ing to meet. If your child prefers
sweet potatoes to carrots, or
peaches to apricots, then OK. All
of these fruits and vegetables
provide essential vitamins and
Other suggestions for eating
smart with children:
• Establish family mealtimes.
Eating together helps promote
family relationships and eating
habits. Children are great mim-
ickers and are likely eventually
to eat what they see you eat.
• Invite children to help with
meal preparation. Often a child
will develop a healthy attitude
about meals if he feels part of
the process. Find a task the child
can do safely, such as mixing
batter or tearing lettuce for sal-
• Provide a low-fat diet for
children over age 2. Studies
show that this could help reduce
the risk for heart disease, can-
cer, obesity and other health
problems later in life. ❑