Teach By Example

It's easy after a hard day of work to pick up fast food for dinner. Your kids need more than that, and they need you to set the example. Susan Attiyah provides helpful advice for establishing some healthy eating habits for your kids.
Susan Y. Attiyah

Following the pyramid
Trying to get your children to eat right seems to become harder and harder. How can we make it easier to get them to have healthy eating habits? Although nothing is easier after a hard day at work than to order pizza or go through the McDonald's drive thru, they can't eat that forever. As concerned parents, we want our children to eat the correct amount of servings in the food pyramid, which includes:

  • Dairy: 2 to 3 servings
  • Meat: 2 to 3 servings
  • Fruit: 2 to 4 servings
  • Vegetables: 3 to 5 servings
  • Bread group: 6 to 11 servings

    Seasoning improves taste
    Parents today know more than they did before about preparing healthier foods at home that taste better. Seasoning can make a world of difference in eating healthier as well. There was a time that people chose not to eat healthier because the food didn't have any taste to it, everything was bland. Now, there have been so many new and different types of seasonings that improve the tastes of these healthy foods.

    Other ideas would be to have your children help prepare the meals and set the table for dinner. Doing things in the kitchen makes the children proud of themselves and that can help encourage them to eat. If allowed, try eating dinner at the same time every night so that it becomes a routine. There are families who can only be together at the same time every day at dinnertime; it's also the best way to find out more about your children and how their day went. Grocery shopping together for meals can also be helpful. Have your children help choose what to prepare for the next day; the more they ask for certain meals the more they will eat.

    Set limits on sweets
    As much as we would like to cut out fat and sweets from their diets the more they will want it. Offer certain treats to your children, just offer them in a moderate amount. At the same time, have a wide variety of healthy foods available in the home. Vegetables are a great snack, especially when served with a dip. You can always put cut up vegetables in a little bag for car trips or any other place you are heading to in a hurry. They are also good to eat before sport events and exercising because it is so light on your stomach.

    "My son Zachery, is fond of cheese and apple 'sandwiches' which are slices cut up an stacked together. I also like to make him a concoction of 'squirrel food' which is peanuts, raisins, cheese and apple cut up and he loves it. I also offer him crackers, like Ritz or Wheat Thins, which are his favorite. They take the place of potato chips as well as, cheese and cracker sandwiches do," says Hannah Hayes, freelance writer and teacher.

    And what about that sweet tooth those kids always seem to have? Explain and show your children there are fruits that are sweet too. Kids may think fruit is boring, it is up to us as parents to show them how appealing fruits can be. Some quick and handy options for sweets can be, granola bars with chocolate bits, flavored yogurts, Nutri-Grain bars, and how about a good ol' peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Kids are usually only familiar with raisins--have them experience the other types of dried fruits as well. Sure some of these snacks are expensive and can add up, but think about the dentist bill going down.

    Be creative with fruit
    Carrie Myers Smith, mother of four and an exercise physiologist says, "In our family we do many things to make fruit different. For instance, apples and bananas with peanut butter. Sometimes I slice the banana cross-wise (into small circles), put peanut butter on each one, and stick a small pretzel stick in the middle of each. They love to pick them up by the pretzel. Or, I cut the banana length-wise in half, smear each with peanut butter and put 'ants' on them (raisins). Apples are good sliced with peanut butter, too, with or without 'ants.' Also, making fruit smoothies with orange juice, pineapples, bananas, raspberries, and yogurt is a great option for sweets. Fruit leather is a good choice, too-they're usually all natural and have no added sugar or preservatives. Mixing dried fruit with nuts and coconut flakes can be great snack as well as a fruit salad with a smorgasbord of fruit; and kids can make it."

    Comment when your child makes a good judgment with a healthy choice. Praise is always the best way to let your child know you are proud of them, they will continue doing what's right when they know you are watching them. Eating should not become a habit when he or she is bored or hurt. That is how obesity begins. Often a child confuses thirst for hunger. If you know it isn't time for your child to be hungry again, just try offering them a glass of water before they go to the cookie jar.

    "I find that kids often don't dislike the food, but it is hard for them to eat. Being an incredibly picky kids myself, I found that interesting shapes and bite size pieces makes it more appealing," says Leslie Sassaman, Corporate Chef for Dacor. "You don't have to be a master chef to achieve this, but it could be as simple as cutting the crust off of a PB&J sandwich and then cutting them into triangles, or using a crinkle cutter knife to slice carrots (found at kitchenware stores, runs about $5-$10). Sometimes it helps to have a sauce over a vegetable that they would normally be "hesitant" to eat. For instance, cauliflower, kids may eat it if there is a cheese sauce of it and the same goes for broccoli. Or add a small pat of butter to the green peas, or even sprinkle green beans with toasted almonds."

    Try it, you might like it
    Chef Sassaman also adds, "Another rule should be that they need to try if before deciding they don't like it. I don't think it's fair, however, that they should be asked to clean their plates. I never did just as Mom always told me when it came to eating, and luckily my tastebuds did change. If a child decides that they do not like something, don't force them to eat it. I found that a lot of children's eating habits are from habit and conditioning, too. It is definitely easier to open a can of soup rather than chop fresh vegetables -- but imagine the nutritional impact that you will be showing your child," she says.

    Sweets are a little harder, Sassaman continues, "because once they decide they need something sweet, they won't stop until they get it. Limit the size of what they get to smaller portions. Again, the same theory of serving the fruit with a sauce could help. For instance, apple slices with caramel dipping sauce (recipe shown below), or bananas with a chocolate dipping sauce, et cetera."

    Set a good example
    Also, it's important for us to set a good example with our eating habits, so that our children will practice what we preach. And we must not forget about exercise. Let's all go and enjoy the "great outdoors." If the children see us being active and eating correctly, they will too. We need to set a good example. Remember how good it felt to be a kid? Well, here is our opportunity to live it again. Let's all get up from in front of the television and go out and play ball, or tag, or even hide-and-go-seek. There are plenty of things to do together as a family, and not to forget the beautiful memories we will be making while doing these healthy family events.

    So, let's show our children how to live the healthy way! Eat well and stay fit.

    Here is a recipes that are healthy and can be used in place of cakes and pastries.

    Baked Cinnamon Apples


  • 4 Granny smith apples, cored
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons sucanat* (sugar alternative available in health food stores)
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take apples and set them in a baking dish. Sprinkle spices and sucanat on the apple and top with 1/2 teaspoon of butter each. Bake for about 45 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla yogurt.

    Per serving: 100 calories, 2 g total fat, trace protein, 21 g carbohydrate, 5 mg cholesterol, 3 mg sodium

    Used with permission of Leanne Ely, C.N.C. and author of Healthy Foods.

    Caramel Dipping Sauce


  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup light Karo syrup
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Tablespoons unsalted butter

    Place sugar and water in a large saut? pan. Cook on high for 5 minutes. Do not stir. When it begins to caramel, swirl the pan to even out the color.

    Reduce heat to low. Add Karo syrup and then add the cream slowly. It will begin to bubble up, so remove it from the heat briefly. Cook until it thickens, about 5-6 minutes. Swirl in butter until melted. Keep or reheat on simmer plate on low.

    Makes about 2 cups.PregnancyAndBaby.com

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