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August, 2008

Mini-Nutrition: Encouraging Kids to Eat Healthy

By Christina Pirello

For a parent, the summer months can bring added concerns about your child’s health and nutrition. How can you alleviate some of your own stress, while encouraging your children to eat healthy? Follow these tips from Melissa’s.

Oranges
For a parent, the summer months can bring added concerns about your child’s health and nutrition. Children may be home from school; their activities and diet can change drastically. How can you alleviate some of your own stress, while encouraging your children to eat healthy? Follow these tips from Melissa’s.

First and foremost: Be a role model.

Your child is unlikely to have a positive attitude toward healthy foods, if you don’t. When you are enthusiastic about fresh fruits and vegetables, your kids are more likely to embrace them. Watch what you eat and don’t eat, what you say about foods and don’t say--children take cues from everything you do.

Vegetable Hide ‘N’ Seek

Encourage your child to eat more vegetables by hiding them in favorite foods like pizza, burritos, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti. Try topping pizza with pineapple, peppers, or mushrooms. Grate zucchini, carrot, or summer squash and toss into favorite dishes. Or chop fresh tomatoes and camouflage in spaghetti sauce, burritos, or salsa.

Supplement with Fresh and Dried Fruits

If you do not succeed in Vegetable Hide ‘N’ Seek, supplement your child’s diet with fresh and dried fruits. Since fruit tends to be mild and sweet in flavor, kids rarely resist. Offer fresh orange wedges, apple slices, grapes, strawberries, melon, pineapple, and cherries. Also a wide variety of dried fruits that make perfect snacks or cereal toppings for kids: dried cherries, strawberries, blueberries, mango, and papaya spears.

Moderation is Key

Children with a well-balanced diet grow into adults with good eating habits. So allow your children to indulge once in a while. Being too restrictive can cause "backlash": your child may develop unhealthy eating habits like bingeing.

Avoid Food Rewards

Reward your child with praise or family fun, not food! A child who finds comfort in food often grows into an adult with eating disorders. Regardless of the initial reaction, continue to offer your child healthy foods. The more familiar we become with healthy foods, the more likely we are to try them. And when you talk about the importance of good nutrition with your kids, remember to use words they can understand. For example, for a preschooler, say "Carrots will help you to grow big like your brother"; for a pre-teen, try "Vegetables will help your body build strength, so you can perform better on the team."