Empower Your Kids Seven Howtos for Smart Snacking

Here's the key to healthful food choices: very visible, convenient, effortless—great taste.

  1. Ask your kids what food-group foods they'd like to have on hand. Buy them!
  2. "Walk" your kids through the kitchen so they know where these foods are kept.
  3. Keep fresh fruit on the counter where kids see it.
  4. Wash and cut up veggies ahead, so they're ready to eat.
  5. Use see-through containers, clear plastic bags, or containers covered with plastic wrap so kids can see what's inside.
  6. Put nutrient-rich food where kids can reach it, perhaps on lower shelves in your refrigerator, pantry, or cabinet. Keep "sometimes" foods such as cookies and chips away in cabinets where they're less convenient to reach, especially for impulse eaters.
  7. Buy food in single-serve containers for grab-and-go eating—for example, milk, raisins, juice, fruit cups, pudding, baby carrots. "Single serve" are sensible portions.

A school-age child's appetite gradually increases; most eat more just before a growth spurt. During childhood, growth is gradual, accelerating most just prior to and during early adolescence: for girls, from ages ten through fourteen, and for boys, from ages twelve through sixteen. As long as a child is growing normally, he or she is getting enough calories. By tracking a child's weight and height, your child's healthcare professional will advise if your child is consuming adequate calories for healthy growth.

Food Preferences and Habits. Children's appetites and food preferences are changeable. Eating small amounts or not eating certain foods simply may mean that your child is testing his or her tastes, or perhaps exerting independence.

Children learn their food habits by watching others—not just parents, but also siblings, friends, teachers, and media. For parents and caregivers, your food choices and lifestyle habits help set their food decisions and behavior. How big are your portions? Do you eat a variety of foods including vegetables? Try new foods? Skip the urge to eat to relieve stress? Fit in physical activity each day? Set up chances for your child to make healthful choices and establish good eating habits. Early influence from parents is linked to the way children relate to food later in life.

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