Man and his son jogging

Guest Post by Samantha Brennan

When a child helps decide what to buy, what to grow in a garden, and what to serve at meals, chances are that he or she will be much more likely to want to try that food. It’s important to establish healthy habits with your kids from an early age.

Getting your child interested in healthy habits

Have your child help with tasks that are developmentally appropriate, like stirring and helping get food ready to go into the oven, or helping to plant, water, and pick foods from a garden.

Always be mindful of safety, and don’t allow children to handle knives or be close to heat sources like burners or a hot oven.

Create a Snack Shopping List together. Brainstorm about what kinds of foods your child would like and have your child help you put them in the cart at the store.

Managing Picky Eaters

Even if your child is a picky eater, chances are they’re still getting enough of the nutrients they need to prevent being malnourished. It may be frustrating, but continue to introduce new foods to your child. Sooner or later you’ll hit upon some new choices that appeal to their taste buds.

Keep in mind that a child may need to try the same new food more than 10 times in order to decide that they like it! So, continue to offer healthy meal options, and, most importantly, limit your child’s access to less-healthy snacks and beverages, including:

  • Excessive fruit juice
  • High-fat or high-sugar snacks such as chips or candy
  • Excessive milk and milk products

If your child seems overly tired or you are concerned that they’re not growing at a typical pace — or if you have any questions regarding your child’s nutritional habits — be sure to talk to your healthcare professional.

Staying Safe at Mealtime

If your child is under 4 years of age, you should take special care with foods that require extensive chewing, or could cause choking if swallowed whole.

In addition, follow these simple guidelines when feeding and eating with your child:

  • Always supervise your child while eating. Choking incidents often occur when older siblings offer young children food they’re not yet developmentally ready to handle.
  • Encourage your child to take small bites and chew his or her food completely.
  • Never leave your child unattended, and insist that your child stay seated during mealtime or snacks. Never let them lie down or walk/run around while eating!
  • Don’t let your child run with anything in his/her mouth, including straws, toothpicks, chewing gum, lollipops, toothbrushes, or food.

Potential Choking Hazards for Young Children

These common foods can be dangerous if swallowed whole:

  • Chunks of meat or cheese
  • Whole grapes
  • Nuts
  • Chunky peanut butter
  • Popcorn
  • Seeds
  • Potatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Raw fruits or vegetables, like raw carrots
  • Hard or sticky candy