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Planned mealtimes make for happier kids

Your growing children depend on you for establishing and maintaining healthy eating habits and routines. When creating an eating routine, set a time for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Once you have a routine for meals and snacks, mealtimes are more relaxed. Most children are happier on a schedule and become hungry at regular times. You'll feel better and more relaxed about mealtimes when the family has a set routine.

Be consistent. Much like a bedtime routine, children need a mealtime routine.

Plan for three meals and two snacks each day. Serve a vegetable or fruit at every meal. Fruits and vegetables are great snacktime foods.

Instead of rewarding your children with food, reward them with attention and playful activities.

By setting up routine mealtimes, your family will eat out less and save money in the long run.

Another part of having a healthy family includes spending time together. The family meal is a great way for everyone to get together, have a conversation about what happened during the day, and actually eat a structured meal together. However, there are some things to remember when planning mealtimes at home.

Serving meals at home requires planning. Plan meals a week ahead of time. Before you do your shopping, sit down and plan your meals for the week. Make a list of all the foods and ingredients you'll need to prepare healthy, balanced meals and snacks. When exhaustion kicks in and you want dinner on the table quickly, your menu is already designed. This will cut down on eating out when times get hectic.

Make one day of the week your shopping day. It will cut down on running to the grocery store every other day to pick up a simple ingredient needed to create a meal.

Make sure to always include dairy products, fruit and vegetables at mealtimes.

Limit the amount of processed ready-to-eat-snacks you buy, like potato chips. Potato chips, cookies and many other processed foods are usually higher in calories and fats and much more expensive.

Children must have a routine. Routine meals can make for a happy child who comes to the table hungry for the prepared food.

There is no secret to healthy eating. Be sure to eat a variety of foods, including plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products. Also include low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry and fish. Drink lots of water and go easy on the salt, sugar and saturated fat. Good nutrition should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity.

Remember, as a parent you are a role model for your children. Set a good example by eating healthy foods. Buy and try new fruits and vegetables. Drink water between meals. Set up an eating routine at home for your meals and snacks. Your children will learn by your good example. If children don't want to try a new food, don't force them to eat it. Make the unwanted food a week or two later and keep this up until they try the new food. If you offer healthy foods, your children will learn that these are the foods eaten in the house and they will eventually eat them.

For more information on this or related topics, contact the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi- Line at 265-6206.


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