Lighten Up By Dan Gordon UCLA Magazine October 2012

With two thirds of the country battling weight problems, putting our children on the path to a healthy diet has never been more important. Yet it can be a constant war of wills with kids. Here are some tips on raising healthy eaters. Give peace a chance: don’t use coercion, the goal should be to get your children to choose healthy foods on their own. Don’t use food as a reward: this suggests food is a prize to be earned, making it even more desirable in the child’s eyes. Don’t cater to the picky eater: if you calmly make it clear that the meal you’ve prepared is the only option, they might test you by missing a meal, but no child is going to starve by missing one meal. Build bridges: add whole grain macaroni to mac and cheese, add some spinach to a smoothie, instead of pumpkin pie try butter nut squash, use yogurt parfait for dessert instead of pudding. When at first you don’t succeed, keep trying: kids repeatedly exposed to non- sweet/ non- salty foods can learn to like them. Establish the right envirnment, then cede power: if your house is stocked with only healthy foods, your child will learn to dip into the fruit bowl when hungry. Don’t be a purist: children who are forbidden from ever having sweets are often the ones who later rebel and gorge on junk food. Set an example: Our children are watching how we approach meals and physical activity. The sooner , the better: start introducing babies to a variety of tastes, but it is never too late to change your child’s eating habits. If you are patient and thoughtful about what you offer your child and how you disengage from the power struggle, it does work.

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