DREAM BIG: Parents Can Help Set Healthy Eating Habits for Their Kids
Park Ridge, IL -- Look into your refrigerator and see what food you have readily available for your children. You might be surprised by what you find. Busy lifestyles often lead to a mix of microwavable convenience foods and other handy snacks that may not be the most healthy choices for your children over a prolonged time. March is National Nutrition Month, and Dream Big, the Big Ten Conference's program to promote young girls in sports, reminds parents to take an active role in their children's nutritional habits.
According to Donna Vandergraff, extension specialist in the Department of Food and Nutrition at Purdue University, parents set the tone when it comes to children's nutrition. "Parents can encourage healthy eating habits by exhibiting good habits themselves and showing kids how to make healthful snacks, like cheese and crackers and celery with peanut butter."
Vandergraff says that too often kids grab soda pop and chips or candy as soon as they get home from school because the food is right at their fingertips. A challenge for parents is to make healthy food more accessible.
Rather than potato chips and cookies, have cut-up fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator or fresh fruit on the counter. Other good snack foods include yogurt, raisins, dry cereal and bagels. Snacking helps to refuel the body, but you should encourage your children to snack smart.
Mom continues to be the top influencing factor when it comes to the food choices that children make. The American Dietetic Association recently published a report that examined the food attitudes of five-year-old girls.
Girls whose mothers reported dieting were more than twice as likely to have ideas, concepts and beliefs about dieting than those girls whose mothers were not dieting.
"We continually try to get preteen girls away from the idea of dieting," says Vandergraff. "If we get children eating healthy food combined with healthy activity, this can help them establish healthy habits that last a lifetime."
For parents, she offers three key nutrition tips.