Pediatric Healthy Eating: Creating a Healthy Family
Childhood is the most important time to develop healthy eating habits. As parents and caregivers, you are role models and sources of support for children. Weight problems can be dangerous, unhealthy and challenging to change, so it’s important to prevent obesity and lack of activity from becoming a problem.
Listed below are some general guidelines and tips to create a healthy family:
1. Children should have child-size portions (usually about half that of an adult portion). Portion sizes should be 1 Tablespoon for every year of age (example: a 3 year old should get 3 Tablespoons of rice).
2. Allow children, when age appropriate, to serve their own meals. If a child puts too much food on the plate, use it as a time to talk about sharing the meal with the whole family.
3. Make it a goal to sit down to a family dinner most nights of the week. Use the time to socialize, not argue. Start a tradition, like asking each family member to share the best part of his or her day.
4. Continue to offer fruits, vegetables, and new dishes alongside a favorite. Do not get frustrated. It can take up to 20 exposures to a food before a child will try it.
5. Have set times for meals and snacks to prevent skipping meals or grazing.
6. Avoid making your child a member of the “clean plate club”. Children usually know when they’ve had enough to eat. If they choose not to eat, however, they must wait until the next meal or snack time.
7. Everyone in the family should eat a good breakfast. Skipping breakfast can lead to overeating later in the day and poor performance in school, sports, and work. Try to pair protein (low fat milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, or nut butters) with high fiber carbohydrates (fruit, oatmeal, whole grain cereals, or whole wheat breads, bagels, waffles, or pancakes).
8. Avoid excess calories from liquids like juice, chocolate milk, soda and other sugary drinks…these add too many calories to a child’s diet. Offer low fat or fat free white milk or calorie free flavored water.
9. Shop smart by choosing foods low in fat, high in protein and low in added sugar and calories. Avoid too many fat free foods, though. These are often loaded with sugar.
10. You, as a parent or caregiver, are responsible for what foods are given to your child while at home. Don’t become a short order cook for your child or buy foods out of pressure from the children or other family members. If you don’t want your family to eat something, don’t buy it. This is easiest to do if you don’t shop on an empty stomach and use a shopping list.
11. Avoid using food as a reward—consider other items like stickers, books, CDs, a favorite movie or activity instead.
12. Limit eating out (or take-in) to no more than 1x/week and order child-size meals or split an adult entrée. There is excess fat and calories in restaurant meals.
13. Avoid eating in front of the television or while doing homework or playing on the computer. It is best to eat at the kitchen table.
14. Limit screen time (TV, computer, video games, cell phones) to no more than 1 hour total per day.
15. Be active with your child 60 minutes per day. Take a walk after dinner, ride bikes, swim or play hide and seek.
16. Be a good role model and teach your child healthy eating by example.
Healthy Eating/Activity Goals
What is the most important thing you learned from this handout?
What changes will you make in your diet/lifestyle, based on what you learned today?
If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions please contact UW Health at one of the phone numbers listed below. You can also visit our website at www.uwhealth.org/nutrition
Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at: (608) 890-5500.
Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at:
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: 09/20/2013
Copyright © 09/11/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#392
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