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African-American family eating dinner

In August 2014, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation established Kids Eat Right Month. This observance focuses on healthy eating and an active lifestyle for children and families.

Healthy eating is important at every age. Children should eat various fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy products daily. When deciding on foods and beverages, choose options that are full of nutrients and limited in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. The following are some ways that children and families can improve their nutrition and physical activity as well as encourage smart eating habits:

Have regular family meals. Children who participate in regular family meals are more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and grains and are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods. They also usually make healthier food choices. A family meal is also a chance for parents to introduce their children to new foods and to be role models for healthy eating. Mealtime among family should be used as a chance to reconnect.

Encourage physical activity. Make physical activity part of your family’s daily routine by taking family walks or playing active games together. Take your children to places where they can be active, such as public parks, community baseball fields, or basketball courts. When children are physically active, they build up an appetite for meals and may be more motivated to eat healthier foods and try new foods.

Be a role model. The best way parents can encourage healthy eating is to eat well themselves. Children will follow the lead of the adults that they see every day. You’ll send the right message by eating fruits and vegetables and not overindulging in less nutritious food.

Serve various healthy foods and snacks. Eating a variety of foods from the five major food groups provides a range of nutrients to the body, promotes good health, and can help reduce the risk of disease. This also keeps your diet interesting with different flavors and textures.

Involve children in meal planning. Most children enjoy deciding what to make for dinner. This is when parents should talk with them about making healthy food choices and planning a balanced meal. This is also a good time for children to learn about food labels, become familiar with how they look, and understand why nutrition food labels are important. In the kitchen, make sure the children do age-appropriate tasks so they can play a part without getting injured or feeling overwhelmed.