Teach your kids how to identify unhealthy snacks

Helping a child identify what's healthy and what's not will help them make nutritional decisions in the long run.

If it were up to your kids, breakfast would be a bowl of gummy worms, lunch would be French fries dipped in ice cream and dinner would simply be chocolate. Thankfully, you are in charge when it comes to dictating your child's diet, so you can help encourage them to eat healthy and make sure they get the essential vitamins and minerals they need. But what about when you are not around? Do you think they will be able to make the proper nutrition decisions when they are out and about or around their friends? Informing your kids about what is good and what is bad for you can not only benefit them in the long run, but help you rest assured that you are raising a healthy decision maker. Here are a few tips on how to keep your child on the right path to balanced nutrition:

MyPlate
MyPlate is the latest nutrition guide put forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and features a very simplistic design that is easy to follow for children. The symbol resembles a game piece found in Trivial Pursuit, with four corners divided into serving recommendations of fruits, vegetables, grains and protein, and a smaller circle of dairy off to the side. This new template implemented by the First Lady Michelle Obama is not only a straightforward approach toward teaching kids proper nutrition, but also allows them to understand the importance of which grains and protein sources are healthier than others.

Introduce your dinner
When you cook a meal for the family during dinner time, try actually discussing what each food is and why you chose it. Most of the time, kids are told that vegetables like broccoli and peas are simply "good for them," but they are never provided an explanation why. Give your child the details of how each food is broken down and used by your body for various health benefits. For instance, if you are serving a side of broccoli for dinner, discuss how despite its "different" taste, broccoli is full of antioxidants that will help strengthen your bones, your heart and also keep you from getting sick.

Commend healthy behavior
While it is never a good idea to "reward" your child for eating good fruits, providing a smile or a subtle favorable gesture that they are making a healthy decision will promote positive reinforcement, and let them know that they will have your approval when they are eating nutritionally. Instead of allowing your kid to eat a bowl of ice cream after eating all their carrots, reward them with a trip to the park, or a game of catch, something active that they still will enjoy.

Raid the fridge
If your child is seeing potato chips, fruit snacks or ice cream every time they open the pantry or freezer, then its easy to see where poor nutritional influences may arise. Always keep your refrigerator loaded with fruits and vegetables, and try not to leave high sugar junk food snacks within arm's reach.

Lead by example
What good will telling your children to be healthy be when you are always spotted with a bag of popcorn or spoonful of chocolate ice cream? We all know how observant kids can be, so the more you eat healthier foods in front of them, the better they will get the picture.

Avoid total restriction
It's important to understand that a little dessert here and there is not the end of the world. If your child comes home with an A on his or her homework, or his or her team won the championship baseball game, go out and celebrate with a pizza or sundae. Constantly condemning them from their sweet tooth could lead to nutritional revolt the older they get.

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