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Making healthy eating habits a family affair

Bookmark and Share When a child has a weight problem, it's best for the whole family to join together in an effort to get healthy. Promote a healthy attitude
Smart snack ideas
Taking the family out to eat?
For more information

Promote a healthy attitude
Lynne Nugent, RD, manager of Virtua's outpatient nutrition services, offers the following tips to help parents promote healthy attitudes about eating and fitness to their children.

  • Take a look at your own eating habits to see if you're setting a good example.
  • Eliminate unhealthy foods from your household rather than just prohibiting your child from eating them.
  • Keep healthy snacks in a place where your child can easily get to them.
  • Make time to exercise as a family.
  • Limit TV and computer time for the whole family, and don't eat in front of the TV.
  • Discourage talk about weight unless your child brings it up.
  • Avoid preparing fried and high-fat convenience foods.
  • Support your child by creating healthy habits for the entire family.
  • Involve children in meal preparation by asking them to help with measuring and mixing ingredients and setting and clearing the table.
  • Don't forget that kids may take more time to eat than adults do. Take your time through dinner and enjoy conversation at the table before cleaning up.
"The best thing you can do is make good nutrition and exercise a family affair by planning lower fat meals, nutritious snacks, and family activities," states Nugent. "This will make your child feel included in a total family effort focused on health and not feel different from the rest of the family." Smart snack ideas
Following are a few fun snack ideas to try with your family:
Cucumber boats: Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out middle of one half. Fill it with low-fat ranch dressing. Cut up the rest of the cucumber and add carrot sticks and you have oars to go with your boat.
Spiders: Make peanut butter sandwiches with round whole-grain crackers. Insert pretzel sticks into peanut butter filling to make legs.
Ants on a log: Spread celery sticks with light cream cheese. Top with raisins or dried cranberries. Taking the family out to eat?
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), an organization dedicated to improving the safety and nutritional quality of our food, suggests requesting the following foods and types of preparation when eating in restaurants:
  • Sauces and salad dressings should be served on the side and used sparingly. Use low-calorie dressings.
  • Ask for half-portions (or take home half).
  • Use salsa and mustard instead of mayonnaise or oil.
  • Ask for olive or canola oil instead of butter, margarine, or shortening.
  • Nonfat or low-fat milk should be used instead of whole milk or cream.
  • Order baked, broiled, or grilled (not fried) lean meats including turkey, chicken, seafood, or sirloin steak.
  • Salad, vegetables, or baked potatoes make healthier side dishes than french fries. Use a small amount of sour cream instead of butter on a baked potato.
  • Treat yourself to fresh fruit instead of sugary, high-fat desserts.
For more information
For more nutrition and fitness information written just for parents, kids and teens, go to www.virtua.org/kidshealth.