Healthy eating habits for kids

Released: 12/20/21

Sue Zbornik, director, WMC Nutrition Services, shares her insight on techniques parents may use to support healthy eating habits with children.

How do parents encourage healthy eating habits with their children?
Parents are in charge of what, when and where (meaning are the kids going to eat at the table, in front of the TV, etc.) Kids are in charge of how much and whether they’re going to eat. Developing a routine with your children is important. Children feel safe with routines.

What if my children don’t eat what I have cooked for dinner?
Don’t feel discouraged if your children don’t eat. Children typically make up for a missed meal at the next mealtime. Teach your children to trust their appetite and, as parents, trust your children when they say they’re hungry, or not. Some children have eaten enough calories and met their nutritional needs in the 4-5 eating opportunities prior to dinner.

Why is it beneficial for us to operate the kitchen with hours?
Operating your kitchen with open and closed hours is a way to control what and when your children are eating. It also supports providing a routine for them. For instance, if your child doesn’t eat dinner because he/she isn’t hungry at the time, they don’t have the option to binge eat anything later in the evening. Provide opportunities for snacks, but offer them at regular times—morning, midafternoon and bedtime, if necessary.

Do you believe in the saying, “No dessert unless you eat your dinner?”
I’d say it’s the parents’ discretion. I do feel it’s important to offer a wide variety of food. If we allow all foods to be present at the dinner table, including desserts, it takes away the specialness of that specific food and decreases the desire. We want what we can’t have. If your children have already gotten their appropriate calorie intake for the day, they will consume a dessert solely because it tastes good. If your children did not get enough, eating dessert will not satisfy the body and they will become hungry in short order.

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