Written by Kathryn Wilson, Nutrition Staff at Camp Shane

Childhood obesity is a growing issue in today’s world. It affects millions of children across the US. You may not realize it, but you, as a parent play the biggest role in your child’s weight loss journey and can make a lasting effect on your child’s eating habits.

Ditch the “Clean Your Plate” Rule:

You should never force their kids to “clean their plate.” Although it is an effective way to get children to eat their food, this is teaching them to ignore their body’s signals when they are full. Teaching them to ignore these signals can leave a lasting impact that follows them through adolescence into adulthood. Children should be encouraged to TRY everything on their plate, but to stop eating when they are full. This allows them to continue to develop a healthy relationship with food, and learn to listen to what their body is telling them.

Never Reward Children with Dessert:

“When you finish your meal you can have dessert” is a common phrase we often tell our children. However, telling them this will actually teach them to view dessert as a prize to be won. Children will then grow up programmed to think they need to eat a dessert every night once they finish their dinner. Although this may not seem like an issue, dessert should not be seen as a prize, reward or something they need to have after eating dinner. Children need to be taught to listen to their hunger and satiety cues and stop eating when they feel full. This way, they know that if they feel full after dinner, they don’t need to eat a dessert. However, if they are in the habit of immediately eating a dessert after dinner, they will mindlessly eat one every night. Try using a different reward system, such as points, or positive reinforcement.

Stop Packing School Lunches Filled with Junk:

I remember sitting at the lunch table and looking around to see what everyone’s parents packed them for lunch. Tables would be filled with bags of chips, cookies, candy and other various kinds of junk food. You can absolutely still pack your child a special treat every now and then, but try packing them a nutrient-dense lunch that will keep them fueled throughout the day. Introducing kids to new, healthy foods at a young age will help them expand their pallets. Good kid-friendly lunches could include: turkey sandwich on wheat bread, cheese stick, fruit cup, fresh vegetables and hummus, Greek yogurt, nuts, air popped popcorn, etc.

Get Your Kids Involved with Cooking:

Having your kids help you cook dinner will not only teach them the important life skill of preparing healthy meals, but they will also have fun while doing it! It’s a great way to spend time together, feeding your bodies and hearts! Most kids will enjoy being a part of cooking their own meals and learning how to cook. Have them complete the easiest tasks of the recipe such as measuring ingredients, mixing, or cracking eggs. They will be more excited to eat a healthy meal if they were involved in making the meal; it gives them something to be proud of!

Restrict Eating Times in Between Meals:

If the panty/refrigerator is open 24/7, your child may tend to mindlessly eat when they are bored or just feel like eating. Allowing them a mid-afternoon snack is fine, but make sure they are not wondering to the kitchen multiple times in between meals. If they are snacking too much, they may not be hungry for meals or could easily overeat.

Overall, YOU play an important role in your child’s health and weight status so make sure you are doing your best to fulfill your role! They may not understand it now, but they will thank you for it later!