Healthy Eating Aimed at Children

Healthy eating aimed at children can often miss the target.

What parent hasn't tried at least once to bribe, cajole, threaten or manipulate their child into eating healthy food? Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to stoop to such heavy-handed tactics?

Here are seven sharp tips to help you hit home with healthy eating.

1. Start as early as possible. The longer you wait the harder it gets. Once your child is already ruined by sweet treats, it's much more difficult to get them to eat Brussels sprouts and broccoli. If you've already waited too long, you'll have to go for tip # 4 - be strong - and realize your kids might not like you for a few days.

2. Keep a variety of healthy foods available. This helps stop them from latching on to one food or food group. Sure they'll still have their favorites, but a variety will help them get used to varied tastes. And please, don't keep unhealthy food in the house. That's right, no junk food allowed. It will only sabotage your plans.

3. Combine foods they like with foods they don't like. For example, stir-frying onions with zucchini, broccoli, carrots, and snow peas might not seem as bad as sitting down to a whole plate of steamed broccoli. It also helps to make sure the pieces are small enough so your child gets some carrots with his or her zucchini.

4. Be strong! If you can't give tough-love, your project will fail. Tell your children that this is what's for dinner and that's it. There's nothing else for them to eat. Having only healthy food in the house helps to make this work. If there are no other options available, when they get hungry enough, they'll eat whatever's served.

5. Keep your kids away from saboteurs. Some people are just hell-bent on winning-over your children by offering them sweet treats. It constantly amazes me how so many otherwise well-meaning individuals, including some doctors and dentists, will offer my children candy. Teach your kids to politely say, "No thank you." If it's a relative, you can even threaten not to visit unless they stop.

6. Don't let your children watch commercial TV. Yes, you read that correctly. Television commercials are the nutritional education for about 95% of our population. And the majority of ads on kid's shows are about getting them to eat unhealthy junk food. You'll see a huge decrease in your child's food cravings when you turn off the tube.

7. Set a great example. This is the most important tip of all. How can you expect your children to give up candy and ice cream, if you won't? How can you get them to eat fish, vegetables and whole grains, when you don't? While your kids are still young, you're their main role model. Choose to be a great one.

If you're not a good example, you have no right to complain about your child's poor eating habits, obesity, ADHD and all the time you have to take off from work when they're sick.

So, use tough-love on yourself. Aim at healthy eating for you too!