The ABCs of healthful eating


It can be difficult to help your child adopt healthful eating habits, but what better gift can you give as a parent than a lifetime appreciation for nutritious and balanced foods? There are easy ways to encourage more positive choices. Just remember your ABCs:

Allow for experimentation

Some children may not have a natural interest in trying new foods, so it’s important to offer a new food more than once. Show your child how the rest of the family enjoys it. Your child may like the new food after he or she has tried it with many meals. You may also want to have your child taste new foods that are cooked in different ways.

Be a planner

Think ahead about what’s on the menu. Most young children need three regular daily meals plus a snack or two. Plan for variety. Offer foods from three or more of the five major food groups at breakfast and at lunch. Offer foods from all five major food groups for dinner. Plan snacks for between mealtimes.

Check your behavior

What you do can mean more than what you say. Make sure you are being a good role model. Your child learns from you about how and what to eat. Eat meals with your children when possible. Don’t forget exercise, too. Walk, run and play regularly. Families who are physically active together have lots of fun and stay fit.

Dedicate to try something new

At the grocery store, ask your child to choose a new vegetable or fruit from two or three choices for a weekly “try-a-new-food” night. At home, have your child help you wash and prepare the food. Involving your child will spark interest.

Eat creatively

Help your child create a new snack or sandwich from three or four healthy food choices. Try a new bread or whole-grain cracker. Talk about what food groups are in the new snack. Ask your child to describe how the snack tastes. Is it smooth, crunchy, sweet, juicy or chewy? Remember, when children are offered a balanced diet over time, they will develop good eating habits. Keep at it!

Miles Masatsugu, M.D., is

director of health education

and disease management

at CalOptima.



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