Teaching Healthy Habits Early
Last updated: March 2022
Living with type 2 diabetes is not easy. If you are also raising young children it can be especially difficult to navigate healthy eating for the entire family. You may be concerned that your children will grow up to have diabetes, too.
How to teach children healthy eating habits
Teaching healthy eating and lifestyle habits at a young age can help kids to continue these choices into adulthood. Let’s look at a few easy ways to help your children lead a healthy life!
Limit processed foods
One of the best guidelines to teach young children is that whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables are greater than processed foods. What constitutes a processed food? Anything that has been placed into a box or bag and has multiple ingredients can be considered a processed food. Some of the best examples are chips, crackers, granola bars, breakfast cereals, and cookies. Processed meats include sausages, bacon, and lunch meat. All of these food options have added sugar and sodium to help them taste great and last a long time. Should processed food be avoided altogether? Of course not! But being mindful of how to make the best choices in the snack aisles can help lead to a better-balanced diet.
Look for foods with “whole grain” as the first ingredient. Also, when reading the nutrition label, look at how many added sugars are in each product. The current guideline for added sugar intake for kids is less than 25 grams per day. Better snack options are whole fruits and vegetables. Try taking your little ones with you to the grocery store to help pick out fruits and veggies. Having ownership over their choices may also help them eat more!
Avoid sugary beverages
Although fruit juice and soda taste delicious, they have little to no nutritional value and are totally unnecessary for children. They can lead to dental cavities as well as an increased risk of obesity. If you must give juice to your children, choose 100% juice varieties and limit to no more than 4 ounces per day. Sports drinks such as Gatorade are also loaded with sugar and not meant for children. Please limit and avoid these as well. If your children are not keen to drink milk and plain water, try adding some fresh lemon, lime, or even raspberries to the water to give it a little flavor. Even freezing these fruits into an ice cube can be a fun activity and a great way to get your kids excited about drinking more water!
One treat a day rule
Implementing a rule of “one treat per day” has worked very well for my young family. Treats may mean different things to different people, so set your guidelines for your children. But limiting a high sugar food choice to no more than once a day can help your kids keep their added sugar intake under the recommended limit while still allowing some fun and freedom. Some options may be fruit-based fruit snacks, chocolate granola bars, or even the occasional ice cream scoop.
Setting healthy eating guidelines at a young age, and talking about why they are important can be very helpful in teaching your kids how to live a healthy lifestyle. And don’t forget to promote exercise and physical activity! A moving body is a happy body! Get outside with your kids for a quick soccer or basketball game. Not only are you making healthy choices, you are making happy memories!
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