Nutrition plays an important role in a child’s physical and mental growth, as well as his or her future health, stresses LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe.
"The core principles of early childhood education are that children are safe and healthy," Gioe said, adding, "When children are cared for in safe, healthy environments then they can grow and flourish.
"Nutrition naturally plays a critical part in healthy environments."
But today’s children live in a fast-food society, and studies indicate that one of every three preschool children is at risk of becoming obese, so educating young children about the importance of nutrition is crucial to reducing those numbers.
"Parents and child-care providers can play important roles in helping children learn about good food choices that will help them to feel and act their best," Gioe said, stressing, "Adult food choices and attitudes about food affect those of the children they care for. Modeling appropriate food choices is one of the best ways to encourage children eat properly."
The LSU AgCenter expert also provides these tips from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans on helping children learn good eating habits:
–Encourage children to eat a variety of foods that are represented in the food pyramid.
–Never force children to eat, but encourage them to try all foods.
–Offer nutritional snacks such as fresh fruit and vegetables and yogurt.
–Serve only natural foods.
–Drink plenty of water.
–Do not use food as a reward.
–Involve children in food preparation.
–Model appropriate eating habits.
–Eat with children whenever possible.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture