Parents set mood for good eating habits

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  8/21/2009 8:46:46 PM

News You Can Use Distributed 08/21/09

You can help your child develop good eating habits by making mealtime pleasant and relaxed, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames. “Mealtime can be a time to enjoy being with other family members and to learn about food,” the nutritionist says.

Reames says it’s the parents’ job is to give children healthful foods and provide a pleasant, calm place for them to eat. “Then, they need to relax and let kids make choices about what and how much to eat,” she says.

Studies show that preschool children can make healthful food choices and should be allowed to follow their internal signals by eating when they’re hungry. “Give children plenty of nutritious food choices, and they will eat a variety of foods over time,” Reames says.

She advises letting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid food guide help you select nutritious foods for your child. “Choose a variety of foods from the MyPyramid food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans,” she says.

Reames recommends choosing nutrient-rich foods and to “go easy” on foods with added sugars and those high in fat. These foods have calories but few vitamins or minerals.

If you have a poky (slow) eater, the nutritionist offers these ways to plan healthy meals:

– Have healthy foods available at regular meal and snack times when your child is ready to eat.

– Offer small portions of foods, 1-2 tablespoons. If more is wanted, serve seconds.

– Allow your child time to eat.

– Allow your child to stop eating when she says she is full, even when there is still food left on the plate.

– Don’t pressure, threaten or beg your child to eat or to clean his plate.

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Editor: Mark Claesgens

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