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How to Raise a Healthy Eater at Every Stage of Childhood

(Family Features) Daily food choicescanhavea profound impact onoverall health and well-being.Not only do healthy dietary patterns help maintain good health, they also reduce the risk ofchronic diseases throughout all stages of life.

he United States Department of AgricultureDietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025,and nutrition experts agree it is vital to establish healthy eating habits early and maintainthem throughout childhood.

“Research shows toddlers who eat a wide variety of foods are more likely to carry those habits into adulthood, so it’s important to introduce and reinforce healthy eating habits from the time a child starts to eat solid foods,” saidCourtney Hines, KinderCare Learning Centersregistered dietitian. “In fact, the first twoyears of a child’s life are often referred to as ‘the golden window’ because this is when kids are most open to trying new foods and flavors. By encouragingvariety and healthy eating early in life, parents and familiescan dramatically reduce picky eating habits many toddlers and children develop over time while also helping their children develop balanced relationshipswith food they’ll carry with them into adulthood.

Consider these tips and tricks totry at home with kids of all ages to buildhealthy eating habits and excitement around trying new foods.


When babiesareready for solid foods, be sure to exposethemto a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods with varying flavors and textures. Startwith soft foods like mashed potatoes, avocados, cooked rice and bananas until your childrenareready for firmer solids.


Toddlerswho turns up their noses at veggies or fruit may be more open-minded if they’re an active participant in mealtime prep. Ask your childrento pick one new fruit or vegetable andagree that you’ll both taste it. Asking your children to describe the appearance, texture, taste and smell of the foodcan also be a fun way to build vocabulary.


Around the 2- or 3-year mark, children become interested in investigating and learning. Engagetheir natural curiosityin the world around them by planting a small vegetable, fruit or herb garden for your tiny chefs to tend to ─ it can be as simple as a windowsill gardenGardening helps children understand where healthy, nutritious foods come from. Plus, children are more likely to eat what they’ve grown, which means more fruit and veggies in their diets.

The kitchen is chock-full of learning opportunities for all ages. School-agerscan work on their math skills as they measure ingredients for recipes.

Cooking together also gives parents an opportunity to talk about nutrition in terms children can understand,Hines said. “For example, carbohydrates, like bread, provide energy for ourbodies and brains. When weeatcarbohydrates,ourbodies store them for later. That’s why we’re having whole-grain pancakes for breakfast, so you have the energy you need to fuel your brain and body all morning.

For more tips about building healthy eating habits with children of all ages, visit

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