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Food is confusing. From fad diets to Snickers and Doritos and Twix commercials, we are bombarded with images of what is “good” and “bad,” what is delicious and what is not. So trying to instill healthy habits for ourselves, let alone our families, is HARD!! Luckily, we also have more resources than ever on how to develop healthy habits for both kiddos and adults. 

The number one tip on healthy eating? Wholesome snacks. Munching on those Hostess cupcakes in the pantry will mean coming to the table without an appetite and with an inevitable lack of nutrients. So, for snack time, choose foods that will be both satisfying and nutrient-dense. Offering an orange or apple slices instead of processed foods can allow your kiddo (and you) to learn to enjoy the healthy foods just as you would the packaged ones!

Avoid distractions during meals. The more a child can sit and focus on the plate in front of them, the more they can learn to understand when they’re hungry or full (and this goes for moms and dads, too!). Learning to understand one’s own body is an important skill for everyone to learn! It leads to a better-functioning metabolism and less overeating. 

Balance meals! Try to incorporate greens, fruits, grains, and lean protein into your family’s diet. For the kiddos: Sectioned or divided plates can actually help you visualize how much of certain foods they should eat (wink wink, Mealtime Mabel)! Aim for half of a meal to be fruits or veggies, with grains and proteins making up the rest of the plate. But DON’T FORGET!! Portion sizes are the most important part! Too much food can overwhelm your little one or lead to overeating. See what your child usually eats on a regular day to understand how their body and appetite works. 

Make food fun! Have your kids help in the kitchen preparing and making food! It allows them to be involved in the process (to appreciate all of that hard work!) and to enjoy it more. If possible, growing your own food also allows your kids to become excited about fresh foods, fruits and veggies, and healthy eating. 

Spend time on meals. It takes 20 minutes for your gut to tell your brain that it’s full, and taking that extra time to understand our bodies’ signals teaches a valuable lesson: pay attention to how you feel! It’ll also allow your child to register how different foods make them feel--and perhaps even allow them to want to eat those feel-good, healthy foods. 

In the end, learning to enjoy those tasty treats is part of a healthy lifestyle, too. It’s all about balance (because who would want to give up brownies forever?!). After a whole week of eating well, a yummy baked good can motivate you to do well throughout the next week, too! The kiddos (and you) will be able to enjoy all of the foods that you love and get all of the benefits of a nutrient-dense diet. It’s a win-win!