By Carol Bovill
carol bovillNutrition is one of the many topics that parents often come to see me about. Questions range from, “How do I know if my child is getting enough nutrition and how can I help create a healthy eater?” to “Can you tell me how I get him or her to eat more fruits and vegetables?” Many pediatricians say to relax; chances are that although your child may be a fussy eater, he or she is still getting adequate overall nutrition for his or her needed growth and development. Parents are still capable of teaching children good eating habits in their formative years.

If we work now at teaching our children healthy eating habits, we will provide them with something that will help them build a healthy lifestyle throughout their years and greatly reduce the risk of many diseases. How can we do this?

We are role models for our children. Our boys and girls learn by watching us in everything we say and do. Eating healthy with your children on a regular basis provides an excellent tool in demonstrating good nutrition. Eat your fruits and vegetables in front of them. Try to balance your nutritional needs based on the USDA’s Nutritional Guidelines.

With young children, keep the serving sizes small. You can always give them more if necessary. You don’t want to tell your child that he or she cannot have more food. For a child with a small appetite, remember that their tiny stomachs are much smaller than our adult sized ones. Don’t despair if you introduce a new food and they don’t like it right away. Wait, and then reintroduce the food again in the future. When trying to get your child to eat new foods, serve with familiar foods and encourage the child to just try a spoonful. Never try to get the child to “clean the plate.” This can begin a battle of wills that expends too much needed energy. It also may cause a child to have eating issues as an adult. Snacks are very important for growing children, especially those picky eaters who are not getting in much at meal times. Don’t expect your child to eat square meals every day. Many professionals state that children will meet their nutritional requirements over days or weeks. To supplement meals, snacks need to be nutritious, without empty calories. Encourage plenty of milk and water rather than sodas and empty calorie fruit drinks. Try not to allow snacks an hour before meals if you are concerned.

A good way to have your child try new foods is to have him or her cook with you. Another good way to get your child involved is by working together in the garden. Allow your child to begin his own small row of vegetables, and watch his pride as you teach him how to cultivate and reap his small harvest that he will be eager to prepare for others to share with him.

Carol Bovill is the director of the Mann Early Childhood Center at Wilshire Blvd. Temple.