Teaching children to eat healthfully these days is, unfortunately, more complicated than just encouraging them to eat their Brussels sprouts. Studies suggest that many children often skip breakfast, and missing a morning meal has been linked with lower overall intakes of a variety of nutrients. Kids are also eating more foods prepared outside of the home (which often means bigger portions), drinking more sodas and consuming less dairy (which is important for growing strong bones).
What’s more, in the last 30 years the percentage of U.S. children aged 6 to 11 who are overweight has nearly tripled. As childhood obesity becomes more common, diseases previously only seen in adults are becoming increasingly prevalent in children. For example, estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that one in three American children born in 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes at some point during their lives. Other research shows that plaque building up inside arteries—the most common cause of heart disease—can begin in childhood.
Bottom line: Adults need to teach children good eating habits that ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need—but not too many calories. To that end, the nutrition experts at EatingWell offer the following tips and guidelines.