a special feature from Kay & Leslie, founders Grandparentslink.com

Developing healthy habits at a young age will help our grandchildren continue to be healthy throughout their adult lives. As we all know, children can be challenging, so how do we make sure they will make good choices as they grow up? Being sensible about how much and how often we serve higher calorie foods is a good way to start. It’s our responsibility to decide when and what food to offer a child; the child decides how much to eat. Picky eating and food jags are common. For picky eaters, encourage them to try only a few bites (4 bites for a 4 year old) and involve the kids in the process of preparing meals; this will make them more open to trying new foods.

A helpful interactive website, www.choosemyplate.gov, created by the United States Department of Agriculture, is an educational resource to guide families about portions, good nutritional choices, and various ways to present foods. Key points to consider are:

      • Avoid empty calories from sugary drinks, such as juice and carbonated beverages.
      • Encourage the whole family to drink water.
      • Cut back on sweet treats; fruits are healthier options — a baked apple, sliced fruit, a fruit salad, fruit kabobs.  (Try cutting fruit into different shapes using cookie cutters.)
      • It’s not a good idea to offer sweets as a reward. Children learn to think sweets are better than other foods, or are used for comfort. Reward instead with a hug, a kind word, stickers, a favorite activity or game.
      • If sweets are offered, think of smaller portions; do not exceed 100 calories in 1 day.
      • Treats should be once in a while, not a daily routine.
      • If possible, offer healthy snacks only two times a day.
      • Include vegetables at snack time, as well as meal time.
      • Limit fast food to no more than once a month.
      • Milk should be skim or no more than 1% fat after 2 years of age.  Try almond milk or coconut milk.
      • Of course, promote physical activity, and limit television and computer time.