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How to encourage healthy eating at school

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

How to... encourage healthy eating

Studies show that children who develop healthy eating habits when they are young are much more likely to lead active, healthy lives into adulthood. But how do we encourage our children to make good choices at school when there are so many negative influences everywhere they turn? Read on for the top five tips on how to promote healthy eating habits at school.

Mom sending son to school with lunchboxStep 1: Start good eating habits at home

If you want to teach your kids to make good choices, the first thing to do is model healthy eating habits at home. How can your children resist the temptation of the school vending machine if they see you regularly downing Big Gulps, potato chips and candy bars? Stock your pantry and fridge with wholesome, nutrient-rich foods like fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meats, seafood, poultry, low-fat dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. If your kids are used to eating healthy food at home, they will be more likely to make wholesome choices when they are at school as well.

Step 2: Talk to your children about nutrition

Children are smarter than we think. Even very young children can begin to understand the basic concepts behind good nutrition. Teach them about the different food groups. Tell them that it makes our bodies happy when we fill up with wholesome foods that have lots of vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients. Help them understand that although sugary, salty, chemical-laden treats may taste good, they are not good for us.

Involve your children in food-related activities that are fun to do together. Take them to the grocery store and have them help you pick out fruits, veggies, whole grains and other nutritious foods. Plant a garden together. Go apple picking. Let your children help you cook. It may take a little more time and effort to shop, garden and cook with your children when they are little, but in the end, their involvement will pay off in spades.

Step 3: Pack healthy lunches

Fill your children's lunchboxes with nutrient-dense foods that are wholesome and fun to eat. Children can be finicky and are often influenced by the way food looks, so make sure to pack their lunch in a way that looks appealing. Healthy whole grain sandwiches cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters, tortilla pinwheels, pita bites, fruit kabobs, ants on a log, dried fruits or veggies, melon balls and veggie skewers are just a few ideas to get you started.

How to pack the perfect lunch >>

Step 4: Indulge in treats occasionally

Don't be afraid to indulge in the occasional treat. If you abstain from desserts and junk food completely, it could become an obsession for your children. But if you are going to indulge in a special treat, teach moderation. Take your children out for a hot fudge sundae or a pizza, but choose reasonable portions. Show your children that eating sensibly does not have to be a chore or equal deprivation.

Step 5: Trust your children

If you are modeling good eating habits at home, packing wholesome lunches and talking to your children regularly about how to live a healthy lifestyle, you can trust that your kids will make good choices (at least most of the time!). Don't add additional stress to your family life worrying about things you cannot control. You are a good parent. Your children are learning from you.

More ways to raise healthy kids

What's your child's favorite brain-boosting breakfast?
15 Ways to raise a healthy child
3 Ways to get your kids eating healthy

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For more info on this topic...For more healthy eating tips for kids, check this out:
10 Healthiest foods your kids need to be eating

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