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Psychologists Offer Tips to Improve Children’s Eating Habits

Monday, March 13, 2017  
Posted by: Karen Hardin
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Columbus, Ohio | March 13, 2017– Parents and caregivers play an important role when it comes to children’s eating habits. This March, recognize National Nutrition Month by taking steps to improve and establish healthy eating habits for the whole family. 

Research shows that children who eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly are likely to perform better in school, feel better about themselves, cope with stress effectively and better regulate their emotions. They also have higher self-esteem and are less prone to developing anxiety and depression. Additionally, establishing healthy eating habits early in life can lead to long term healthy behaviors in adulthood. 

Psychologists can help parents and caregivers implement strategies to guide children in the process of developing life-long healthy behaviors.  

Start early. Parents and caregivers who help children establish good eating and sleeping habits early in life will avoid having to break bad habits later. Exposing children to a variety of flavors and different foods can not only help children accept healthy foods but to possibly prefer them. 

Make healthy eating easy. Research shows that daily environments like home, school and work can affect habits. Children generally tend to choose foods that are familiar, easily available and ready to be eaten. Parents and caregivers can encourage kids to eat healthier by keeping healthy foods in the house and pack kids’ lunch boxes with nutritious snacks like carrots, apples or nuts instead of chips or cookies 

Set a good example. Children who see their parents or caregivers buying and eating healthy foods are more likely to eat wholesome foods themselves. Healthy eating doesn’t need to be a trick. Instead, teach children to look at healthy foods as tasty and desirable. Try involving kids in planning, shopping and cooking meals to make it fun. 

Rewards and treats. Many parents like to treat their children with special foods for a job well done. While everyone enjoys certain treats, try to reward children with things other than desserts or candy. Instead, consider a family outing or the chance to skip a chore or other non-food related rewards on some occasions.

Have meals as a family. Research shows that social support has a direct impact on healthy eating intentions. Family meals are not only a good opportunity for families to connect, but are also the perfect time to talk about healthy eating habits and engage children in conversations about what consists of a nutritious meal.

Be aware of kids’ emotions. Support is essential when working with children to improve nutrition, especially when that path can be difficult and frustrating. Pay close attention to children’s emotions and reassure them that changes in diet are to make them healthy, and not because there is something wrong with them. 

To learn more about mind/body health, visit the American Psychological Association at www.apa.org/helpcenter. To find out more about the Ohio Psychological Association visit www.ohpsych.org and follow @ohpsychassn.

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The Ohio Psychological Association, in Columbus, Ohio, is membership organization of approximately 1,500 Ohio psychologists. Its mission is to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare. For more information or for a psychologist referral, visit www.ohpsych.org.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes more than 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.