What kid doesn't like a huge birthday cake loaded with candles?
The only thing better than that is a huge piece of cake with ice cream. Birthdays are just one more way your children can form bad eating habits and up on the road to childhood obesity.
What if your toddler got use to seeing just one small cupcake with candles, instead of a huge cake? And what if that cupcake had to be divided four ways, with one small piece going to the toddler and the three other people around the table?
Kids take their cues from their parents. When they see you gobbling down cake, they think they can, too.
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We're Quality Catering or Kids and we serve more than 15,000 breakfasts, hot lunches and bag lunches to day care centers and preschools in northern Illinois and southeast Wisconsin, and we know how to instill in children an appreciation for healthy food that tastes good. We do it every day. And children consume 85 percent of the food we serve on their plates.
Here are our tips on how to teach your kids healthy eating habits.
Every chance you can, encourage them to eat healthy. Explain to them that fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain bread and pasta, fish and chicken, lean meat and low-fat dairy products provide vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy carbs that will let them play longer, run faster and get sick less often.
Have you cooked with your children? It might be fun.
Prepare and cook foods together. You take control of things like sharp knives, blenders and food processors. Let them measure ingredients. They can hold a hand mixer, whisk eggs, and stir pancake batter.
Every time they make a healthy food choice, praise them! You don't have to treat them with sugary foods like cookies. A little praise like "I'm really proud of you" or "You made a great sandwich that your body will love" goes a long way. Your kind, encouraging words will stay with them long after the cookie crumbs are gone.
Rather than bribing your children with money or food, and teaching them to expect it, make them earn special non-food rewards like movie tickets, or a visit to the baseball game, gift certificates, or a special tea party for your daughter and her friends.
An even better non-food reward is to let them earn special activities that will get them moving and burning calories. How about a bowling party? Or a visit to an indoor water park in the middle of winter?
If you're on a tight budget, or you're pressed for time, the reward doesn't have to be elaborate. Say "bravo" to your daughter by pasting a smiley sticker onto her hand, or "stamp" your son's hand with a cartoon character of his choice.
Let your children know that you're excited to try new foods with them. If your family visits relatives or friends and stays overnight, look for opportunities to show your kids healthy foods they might not recognize. And don't be shy about stating right up front to your hosts which foods are off limits for your kids. You don't want to find yourself having to answer your kid's question, "Dad, how come we never go out for fried chicken in a bucket and bring it home like they do?"
When they agree to choose a favorite nutrition book at the local library, that's another chance to praise them. If your kids are too young to read, read the book to them at bedtime.
Don't forget special healthy food treats.
A good alternative to ice cream is flavored, low-fat yogurt, or plain yogurt with fresh berries.
If you want a healthy "Recipe of the Month," subscribe to our free electronic newsletter (look for the red arrow) at http://qualitycateringforkids.com/FreeChildhoodNutritionTipsQualityCateringforKidsChicagoMilwaukee.php.
Our nutrition experts regularly share tips for healthful eating and childhood nutrition. We'll send you free tips and advice on how to get your kids eating more healthfully.
P.S. We cater more than 15,000 nutritious meals each year for day care centers and preschools in northern Illinois communities including Batavia, Plainfield, Warrenville, Naperville, Aurora, Oswego, Northlake, Lombard, Villa Lake, Bellwood, Glen Ellyn, Hines, Maywood, Westchester, Elmhurst, Hillside, Melrose Park and Northlake, as well as to day care centers and preschools in southeastern Wisconsin. Wisconsin communities include Racine, Glendale, Milwaukee, West Allis, Menomonee Falls, Union Grove, Eagle, Elkhorn, Burlington and Muskego. We know what kinds of foods kids love!
If you live in southeastern Wisconsin or northern Illinois and you want more information about the hot lunches and other meals we cater to day care centers and preschools, call us at 888-356-7513.
How do you teach your own children to eat healthy? We'd love to see your Comments below.