Chris : What tips do you have to help kids develop positive eating habits?
Dr. Zelman : Be a positive role model for your children. When you model positive eating habits, they will follow suit. Children are open to the messages they receive from their environment and are easily influenced. It is imperative that as a parent, you set a good example for them so that they can carry these positive habits into adulthood. Drinking water daily, choosing healthy snacks, and moderating portions are all important habits to develop at a young age. Try to pack your child's lunch as often as you can to continue the positive eating habits you set at home. Stick to a structured eating schedule with children. Set aside specified mealtimes and snack times. Do not force children to eat if they aren't hungry. Also, do not allow children to replace a skipped meal with an unhealthy snack. Instead, offer them a healthy snack option and then allow them to eat a full meal at the next mealtime.
Chris : What do studies show regarding how early eating habits develop in kids and how that affects eating behavior over the long run?
Dr. Zelman : Studies show that kids develop early eating habits from what they observe in their surroundings. Parents should ensure that they are setting a good example by monitoring their own eating habits, attitudes, and choices. Children pick up cues very quickly and begin to mimic their parents' behaviors. Positive eating habits can lead to a child developing positive habits in other domains as well.
Chris : What tips do you have for picky toddlers?
Dr. Zelman : Toddlers are going to be picky about what they eat and this is a normal part of their development. Parents should try not to become anxious or overwhelmed by this fact. You just have to get a little creative. Also, parents should try to make mealtime as relaxing and anxiety-free for their child as possible. Eat together as a family. Children are more likely to feel comfortable with eating particular foods if everyone else is eating the same food at the same time. They need reassurance that the food is good and safe. Give small portions to toddlers so that they can taste the food and do not feel too pressured by a large amount of a food. Also, get your toddler involved not only in meal preparation but in shopping for ingredients as well. If they are able to see the entire process that goes into preparing the foods they are served, they are less likely to refuse to eat them.
Being a positive role model for you kids is easier than you might think. I show you just how easy, in the following clip:
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Biography:Dr. Stewart Zelman, Ph.D. is a psychologist and founder of the Centers for Motivation. During his thirty years of professional practice, he has developed a deep understanding of human potential and motivation. He is the author of Think: Mindful and Mindless Tools For Weight Management, and an expert on cognitive behavioral management of food. He has also contributed his time and expertise to the treatment of physically and emotionally challenged youth. I attribute and thank Dr. Stewart Zelman and the Centers for Motivation for their contribution to this post.
C. Vereecken et al. Associations of parenting styles, parental feeding practices and child characteristics with young children's fruit and vegetable consumption. Appetitie 2010 55(3):589-596.
Bao Y. et al. Association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality. NEJM 2013 369;21:2001-11.