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Healthy eating habits are essential to good health in all phases of life and those habits should be learned early. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Obesity is very dangerous as it can increase your risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers, hypertension, and many other life threatening diseases.

It is so important to teach your kids healthy eating habits. While it may be challenging, it’s not impossible and there are many tactics you can use to encourage your kids to make healthy choices. The most important thing of all is to lead by example. If your kids see you making healthy choices, they are more likely to make healthy choices themselves.

Options are very important. Giving children options and allowing them to make the decision gives them a feeling of empowerment and satisfaction when they make a good choice. The trick is to make sure that they have a variety of healthy options. If you don’t buy it, they won’t eat it. Refrain from buying junk food and sugary drinks from the grocery store. Instead, give them healthy food options and serve water with meals.

On the same note, let your kids get involved with the shopping so that they can learn how to make healthy choices at the store too! After all, they’ll have to do it when they’re older, and if they know how to buy healthy at a young age, chances are the habit will stick.

Eat meals together as often as possible and try to make it a positive experience. Meal time should be enjoyable—a time for sharing and bonding. Avoid scolding and negative conversations while eating together, as kids can then begin to associate eating and food with stress and negativity.

Pay attention to portion sizes and snacking. Snacking is important for keeping a healthy blood sugar level throughout the day, but only if you are truly hungry and if the snacks are healthy. Plan healthy snacks in advance and avoid mindless eating (usually out of boredom) in front of the television, computer, etc.

Remind your kids that they may not always be hungry when they think they are. Often times we feel the need to eat when our bodies are actually just thirsty! Try having them drink a glass of water before a snack and ask if they are still hungry a few minutes later.

Finally, make it fun! Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring and you can compete with the fun packaging and shapes of certain unhealthy foods with a little creativity! Here are some examples of some creative kids’ foods:

kids food collage