Pediatric Healthy Eating: Tips for Healthy Eating Habits in Kids
One in three kids is overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Those that have a weight problem during childhood are likely to remain overweight into adulthood. Kids need help in choosing the right foods at the right times. Healthy eating is important at every stage in a child’s life, but it’s especially important to develop nutritious eating habits early on.
- Feed kids scheduled meals and snacks. Offer 3 meals and 2-3 snacks a day and only allow eating at these times. This will encourage normal eating patterns and eliminate grazing or eating out of boredom.
- Avoid skipping meals. Kids have small stomachs and need to eat every 3-4 hours depending on age. Going too long between meals can slow metabolism and lead to overeating later in the day. It is very important that kids eat a good breakfast with protein and fiber every day!
- Provide water to drink between meals and snacks. Don’t let kids fill up on juices, sodas and other sweetened beverages that provide unnecessary calories.
- Limit juice to 4-6 ounces a day and dilute with water. Limit soda or other sugary beverages to no more that once a week.
- Limit low fat milk to 3 cups per day for younger kids and 4 cups per day for older kids.
- During meals, sit at the kitchen table as a family. Take the focus off of food and on to other topics. If a child chooses not to eat, he or she should still remain at the table for at least 15 minutes (10 minutes if less than 3 years old). Food should be offered at the next snack or meal if the child chooses not to eat.
- Ignore poor eating and praise a job well done. Do not talk about a child’s eating habits in front of him or her.
- Avoid making your child become a member of the “clean plate club” every meal.
- Your child should help decide whether to have seconds at mealtime. Wait 20 minutes after the start of the meal to decide if seconds are neeed. This way, your child can help read the hunger cues and recognize if they are still hungry. Hungry kids will remain at the table. If not hungry, they will get bored and want to leave!
- Desserts should be given a couple times per week and not offered nightly. Serve a range of foods that count as dessert: seasonal fruit, cinnamon toast, homemade muffins with quality ingredients, and low fat pudding or yogurts. Cakes, cookies and candy should be offered less often.
- Be active! 60 minutes of activity a day with your child will help both of you to remain at a healthy weight. Walk, ride bike, swim, play tag or even skip rope.
- Limit TV and computer time to no more than 60 minutes a day.
- Avoid food struggles and give your child positive feedback about healthy eating.
- You are the parent. You decide the types of food that are offered or available around the home. Set a good example by eating healthy too!
- Continue to offer new fruits and vegetables. Kids need exposure to some foods up to 20 times before they will try a new food. Be patient and avoid pressuring a child to eat.
- Let your children help you plan and prepare healthy meals. Take them along when you go grocery shopping, so they can learn how to make healthy food choices.
- Use stickers, games, or activities to reward good behavior rather than using food.
- Avoid using the term “bad foods” or removing all sweets from the diet, even if you are concerned about your child's weight. Kids tend to want these foods even more if they are not allowed in the home. Teach children to include all foods in the diet in moderation.
- Avoid eating out of habit. For example, try not to always eat while doing homework or watching TV.
If you have more questions please contact UW Health at one of the phone numbers listed below.
2880 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53705
(608) 263-4360 appointments
UW Health West Clinic
451 Junction Road
Madison, WI 53717
(608) 262-9181 appointments
UW Health East Clinic
5249 East Terrace Drive
Madison, WI 53718
(608) 265-7405 appointments
American Family Children’s Hospital, 1675 Highland Ave, Madison, WI 53792
Pediatric Specialty Clinics - Nutrition (608) 890-8298
or 263-6420 Appointments
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 01/07/2013
Copyright © 01/07/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#384
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