How kids eat

Not just what kids eat matters, but how they eat, too.

A preschooler who is consuming large amounts of sugary drinks and foods is certainly not consuming a healthy diet. But, how they eat these foods may make as much difference to their health as what they eat. A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (June issue), which assessed 1,076 children, ages three to five found that eating habits in preschoolers may be linked to their risk for future heart related conditions. If preschoolers ate in unhealthy ways, their cholesterol levels tended to be higher, which indicates a higher risk for future heart related illnesses. The study examined unhealthy habits such as eating while watching television or eating when not hungry because of drinking beverages.

“Eating behaviors in preschool-aged children are important potentially modifiable determinants of cardiovascular risk and should be a focus for future studies of screening and behavioral interventions,” the authors wrote. The authors also mention that promoting responsive feeding, where appropriate and healthy foods are provided by parents, and children use internal cues to determine the timing and amount of food they consumed is critical in establishing healthy eating habits.

If you think your children are allowed too much screen-time, which may include watching television, playing video games, browsing the internet, etc., Michigan State University Extension suggests the following Mayo Clinic recommendations:

  • Eliminate background TV. If you’re not actively watching a show, turn it off.
  • Keep TV’s and computers out of bedrooms. Children who have TV’s in their bedrooms watch more TV and videos than children who don’t.
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV. Allowing your child to eat or snack in front of the TV increases his or her screen-time. The habit also encourages mindless munching.
  • Set school day rules. Don’t let your child spend all of his free time engaging in screen-time. Avoid using TV and video or computer games as a reward for finishing homework and chores.
  • Talk to your child’s caregivers about limiting screen-time.
  • Suggest other activities. Consider classic activities, such as reading, playing a sport or trying a new board game.
  • Set a good example. Be a good role model by limiting your own screen-time.
  • Unplug it. If screen time is becoming a source of tension in your family, unplug the TV, turn off the computer or put away the video games for a while. You might designate one day a week a screen-free day.

For more information on how to help your children develop healthy eating habits, contact an expert in your area by visiting http://expert.msue.msu.edu.

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