Wondering how you can teach your kids about environmental sustainability and proper nutrition in a fun, engaging way? Experts agree that as your child’s role model, you need look no further than your own positive examples. Cooking, talking and eating together will help ensure your child develops healthy eating habits for life. To help you set the best examples, try these 10 tips from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion:
1. Show by example
Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains with meals or as snacks. Let your child see that you like to munch on raw vegetables.
2. Go food shopping together
Grocery shopping can teach your child about food and nutrition. Discuss where fruits, vegetables, grains, milk and meats come from. Let your children make healthy choices.
3. Get creative in the kitchen
Cut food into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters. Name a food your child helps make. Serve “Janie’s Salad” or “Jackie’s Sweet Potatoes” for dinner. Encourage your child to invent new snacks. Make your own trail mixes from dry whole-grain, low-sugar cereal and dried fruit.
4. Offer the same foods for everyone
Stop being a “short-order cook” by making different dishes to please children. It’s easier to plan family meals when everyone eats the same foods.
5. Reward with attention, not food
Show your love with hugs and kisses. Comfort with hugs and talks. Choose not to offer sweets as rewards. It lets your child think sweets or dessert foods are better than other foods. When meals are not eaten, kids do not need “extras”—such as candy or cookies—as replacement foods.
6. Focus on each other at the table
Talk about fun and happy things at mealtime. Turn off the television. Take phone calls later. Try to make meals a stress-free time.
7. Listen to your child
If your child says he or she is hungry, offer a small, healthy snack—even if it’s not a scheduled time to eat. Offer choices. Ask “Which would you like for dinner: broccoli or cauliflower?” instead of “Do you want broccoli for dinner?”
8. Limit screen time
Allow no more than two hours of TV a day, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Get up and move during commercials. Get some physical activity and avoid the advertising.
9. Encourage physical activity
Make physical activity fun for the entire family. Involve your children in the planning. Walk, run and play with your child—instead of sitting on the sidelines. Set an example by being physically active and using safety gear, like bike helmets.
10. Be a good food role model
Try new foods yourself. Describe its taste, texture and smell. Offer one new food at a time. Serve something your child likes along with the new food. Offer new foods at the beginning of a meal, when your child is very hungry. Avoid lecturing or forcing your child to eat.
For more information, visit choosemyplate.gov.