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How to Encourage Good Eating Habits for Children

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Having troubles with your child's eating habit? Well, you're not alone. Most of the parents today are having the same problem like you have. Toddlers nowadays are picky when it comes to food. They always have their favorites, which usually doesn't supply the proper nutrition that their body needs.

If your kid does not eat sufficient calories for their body in a day, well don't panic. Instead, consult your doctor to start developing a healthy eating habit for your child.

Here are some tips to help you encourage your child's good eating habits:

1. You can start by giving your child three regular meals and three snacks in a day. Being consistent with meal and snack times makes a child less likely to try to tell you when they will or won't eat.

2. In choosing the right foods in each meal or snack, try giving them a variety of foods. Offer foods that your child likes, but also some that they haven't tried or liked yet. Usually, your child may not show interest eating those foods, but there's no harm in trying. You can always try several times, maybe even ten times, offering the same foods they initially rejected because high familiarity with the food may increase your child's interest on the food.

3. Play with food, in a good way. Sometimes, playing with foods will make your child more interested in it. Some children form faces with their meals, some form animals. Children can be creative with their meals, so let them enjoy it--as long as they're eating it eventually.

4. Adding some salt, sugar or cheese works most of the time. Cheese could be added to vegetables. Some likes to have it melted as toppings. Of course, you'd want to use these ingredients in moderation.

5. Watch the liquids. We all know soda pops are not healthy. But too much of milk and juice may not be good, either. Limit those fluids to a few cups a day. It's best to get fruit juice from whole fruits, anyway. Encourage the drinking of water, since it is so good for the body, and is a great habit to develop. And remember, drinking liquids before a meal will make one feel satiated, and likely to eat less food.

6. Forcing your child to eat their whole meal was once the norm, but it's been a long held belief in modern times that this practice is not healthy. Children always know if they're hungry or not. If they insist upon not eating dinner but prefer to eat snacks, then cut down on the size of snack portions so they'll be hungry at meal times. You can also offer them a deal or bargain. For example, if they eat a set amount of their meal, they get to eat a snack afterward. But forcing children to always clean their plate discourages them from learning to stop eating when they're full.

7. If you have a malnourished or underweight child, adding dry nonfat milk into their milk, soup or even on pudding could help them get some extra calories. Some of these other tasty, calorie-rich foods may help: margarine, cream cheese, peanut butter and syrup. Just make sure they're not allergic to any of those ingredients, of course.

8. Eat together. Eating is a social event. Studies have shown that eating alone is bad for the digestion. So if you're so busy that you plop your kid down at the dinner table to eat by themselves while you do dishes or get your office work together, you may want to rethink that lifestyle. Much quality time and conversation with family and friends occurs during meal times. Use this rule of eating together as an opportunity to force yourself to stop being busy for a few moments so you can enjoy the company of others. Eating together not only will make meals more pleasant for your child, but for yourself, as well.

If all else fails, never hesitate to consult your doctor. If your child is excessively overweight or underweight, trying to determine the best way to get your child to eat nutritiously is like taking medicines: never self-medicate. Always consult the experts.