(StatePoint) While there is a lot of guidance available about what to feed children, until now, there has been little guidance about how to feed them. New recommendations offer parents and caregivers practical tips for encouraging healthy eating habits vital to growth, development and health.
“Childhood is a critical period for developing lifelong eating habits, and home is one of the first places where these habits emerge,” says Megan Lott, MPH, RD, deputy director of Healthy Eating Research (HER). “As a registered dietitian and parent myself, I know that reluctance to try new foods and other picky eating habits are common in childhood.”
In an effort to make mealtimes easier for families, HER, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) based at Duke University, recently convened a panel that reviewed scientific research to develop recommendations for how to feed children ages 2-8.
They found that structuring the home to provide healthy choices and supporting children’s independence in trying and learning to like new foods are more effective than pressuring children to eat. They also found that the single most effective strategy to get kids to eat healthy food is through repeated exposure. Here’s a snapshot of the panel’s top tips:
• Promote independence: Giving kids some control at mealtime helps them learn to like healthful foods. Avoid pressuring kids to finish everything on their plate. Instead, help them learn to identify when they’re hungry or full.