Tips for Parents

Fostering healthy eating habits among children poses many challenges, especially with picky eaters. Here are some tips to ensure your child gets the nutrition he or she needs:

  • HAVE BREAKFAST: Kids should be encouraged to eat breakfast regularly. Even if time is short, nutritious, on-the-go foods like cereal bars and fruit or milk, are good options. Research shows that a good breakfast leads to better academic performance and improved school behavior. It is also important year-round, so that kids get the nutrients they need to grow and develop properly.

Why is Breakfast so important? Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, discusses the benefits of eating breakfast and quick and easy breakfast ideas that she recommends.

  • FIND ROLE MODELS: Parents and teachers are important role models for their kids when it comes to healthy habits. While parents and teachers usually control when kids eat, the kids themselves usually determine how much they eat. By setting a healthy eating example, kids are more likely to make good decisions themselves.
  • GET PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: Exercise is vital for healthy children. Programs that encourage movement are getting more attention and there is growing interest in "walk to school" programs. Kids are often eating too many calories and not burning them off, which is one factor in the escalating rates of childhood obesity and other troubling medical problems.
  • MODERATION IS KEY: A national survey[1] revealed that moms are more concerned with individual ingredients than their children's overall caloric intake. This is troubling as total calories typically determine weight gain.
"It's a reality that kids are going to have some sugar in their diets, whether that's table sugar, honey, pancake syrup or high-fructose corn syrup. Just be sure the majority of the added sugars they consume are from a nutrient-rich food or beverage, and practice moderation with concentrated sweets like candy and desserts." - Kris Clark, Ph.D., R.D., F.A.C.S.M., Assistant Professor and Director of Sports Nutrition, The Pennsylvania State University

Video FAQ: Registered dietitian Lara Field talks about moderating sweets in childrens' dietsLara Field, RD, answers the question: Should I restrict sweets in my child's diet?

Video: Registered dietitian Neva Cochran shares healthy summer eating tips for kidsNeva Cochran, MS, RDN, LN, on Good Morning Texas: Healthy summer eating tips for children and the role of sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup, in a balanced diet

[1] Wakefield, a national polling firm, conducted the survey between August 18 and August 25, 2008, using an email invitation and an online survey. Results were collected from a random sample of 400 mothers ages 18 and older. Quotas are set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population.