Model Good Food Choices and Kids Will Follow

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 | 12:08 pm

Parents Reminded to Set the Standard During National Nutrition Month®

NASHVILLE – Children learn their habits, attitudes and beliefs from their parents and other caregivers, including their willingness to try new, healthy foods. During National Nutrition Month® this March, the Tennessee WIC Program encourages adults to be good role models to teach children how to appreciate nutrition and enjoy healthful eating.

“The most important thing a parent can do to create healthy eating habits is offer children as many new foods as possible, as early in life as possible,” said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. “It takes much longer to accept new foods when you are older.”

A survey by the American Dietetic Association Foundation shows parents have more potential to influence their children’s behavior, including their eating habits, than anyone else. In fact, parents outrank sports celebrities as the person the child would most like to be, according to the survey. Model good habits by eating healthy foods and offering them to children, and parents provide opportunities for kids to learn to like a variety of nutritious foods. 

Involve children in grocery shopping and meal preparation as much as possible. Kids are more likely to try new things, especially fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products, if they are involved in choosing and preparing them.

“It’s amazing what kids will try. Salad greens, peas, cabbage – you can get your children to enjoy whatever is available locally in your area,” said Cooper.

Having a healthy relationship with food is a life skill parents can teach their children. When kids are in the kitchen with parents, they are learning, and parents can make healthy food fun by involving children in all aspects of procuring, preparing or even growing food. Talk to children, especially the very young, to explain activities like washing, adding and stirring food items. Make meal preparations fun and interactive. When children are old enough to prepare meals on their own, they will not view time in the kitchen as a negative.

Children can develop a liking for new dishes by researching recipe ideas. Encourage them to go through child-friendly cookbooks. The Department of Health offers a free cookbook of simple recipes taste-tested by youngsters online at http://health.state.tn.us/nutrition/recipies.html.

Visit www.mypyramid.govwww.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.orgclick the “Get Kids Involved” box at the top of the home page for a wealth of information on healthy eating for children as well as easy recipes.

The Women, Infants and Children or WIC program is a federal program designed to provide supplemental food to low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women and infants and children until the age of five. The program provides nutrition education, supplemental foods, breastfeeding promotion and support and referrals for health care. WIC has proven to be effective in preventing and improving nutrition related health problems. The United States Department of Agriculture funds the WIC Program , and the Tennessee Department of Health provides the services in about 140 county health department locations and hospital sites throughout the state. For more information on nutrition for your young child and the WIC program, visit http://health.state.tn.us/wic/index.htm.