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Mini-Size My Meal:
Establishing Good-Eating Guidelines for Kids

By:  Karen Sullen

When did America become the "Super-Size Capital of the World?"  We like our cars big, and our houses even bigger.  The insatiable desire for the BIG things in life has also affected our appetite-literally and figuratively.  At restaurants, our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs, and the large portions are often more than what our stomachs can handle.  Yet, when we're in the drive-thru line we still ask them to super-size our order as if nearly 400 calories in a medium-sized order of fries is not enough.  I even came across a hamburger joint in Arizona called "Heart Attack Café" with burgers on the menu like "The Triple By-Pass Burger."  (Well, at least they're upfront about it.)  As a country, we have not done a good job managing mealtime and appear to be spiraling out of control when it comes to our diet and appetite.  Where does it all end?  It should end with a commitment to make healthier choices, especially for our children.

Regrettably, it is estimated that approximately 1 out of 3 children are considered to be overweight or obese.  Developing a healthy lifestyle for our children begins with diet and exercise.  We know this, but still our children make unhealthy food choices and live a sedentary life filled with hours of inactivity in front of the television or a video game.  Because only 1% of children actually eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables per day, we must turn the tide in favor of a healthier lifestyle.  Use these tips to help change poor eating habits into healthy ones.

Mini-Size Your Meal:
  Eating smaller, more frequent meals actually stimulates your children's metabolism, while large meals can make them lethargic.  Try eating on a smaller plate so that they feel like their plate is full.  They don't have to eat until they are absolutely stuffed to get the nutrients that they need. 

Go Skinny Dipping:
  Take fruits and vegetables on a dip in a healthy sauce.  It might encourage them to eat healthier snacks and satisfy their sweet tooth.

Don't Join the Clean Plate Club:
  Leaving food on the dinner plate at mealtime was once considered a no-no.  But today, it's better for children to learn to listen to their bodies and know when they're full.  Pushing them beyond that point may inadvertently teach them to overstuff themselves.

Watch out for D&B:
  Every meal does not have to include desserts and bread.  Unless your child is a big bread eater, he or she might not even miss it.  Try limiting the amount served for a quick way to reduce the caloric intake.

Hydration Beats Hunger:
  Often times, children mistake thirst for hunger.  Staying well hydrated can cease the "hunger pains" and keep children from snacking between meals. 

Make Fast Food Your Friend:
  Let's face it.  Excluding fast food completely from a child's diet is unrealistic.  There are always times when a sit-down meal just doesn't fit into the schedule.  But just because you have to eat quick doesn't mean you have to eat junk.  Make better choices by selecting a baked potato, salad, or fruit cup instead of fries.  Go for the grilled chicken wrap instead of the burger.  Most restaurants have gotten pretty creative with their selections of side dishes and entrees. 

In addition to these healthy eating options, be sure your child gets the proper amount of sleep each night and remains active during the day.  Incorporate exercise into your daily activities with toys and games.  Remember, you don't always have to park right in front of the door at the mall.  Park further away and enjoy the exercise instead.

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